New school, new friends, big smiles.

Pupils, staff and families at the new Ripon satellite of Mowbray special school, are over the moon that it’s open for business.

“It’s been fantastic,” said Laura Pottage, mother of seven-year-old Molly, who has Downs Syndrome, and is one of 12 children who started at the Ripon satellite school last week. “This provision was desperately needed in this area and Molly is very very happy.”

Mowbray is an oversubscribed special school in Bedale where, according to Ofsted, good opportunities for pupils’ personal development and strong relationships between pupils and staff are at the core of the school’s work.

Rather than having to keep turning children away, headteacher Jonathan Tearle in partnership with the County Council has long harboured an ambition to open a satellite school to serve Harrogate district.


Molly has been in mainstream for three and a half years and Laura, who fell in love with Mowbray School after visiting the Bedale site, believes the more specialist provision offered by Mowbray in Bedale and now in Ripon is what her daughter needs.

She said: “It’s a very dynamic, forward-thinking school which prepares children for life in society and delivers a good education in a way children can engage with.”

We have supported Mowbray’s ambitions for aged 3-11 satellite provision for the Harrogate district by providing over £500,000 in funding. This support has enabled staff to be trained at Bedale in the teaching and learning ethos of Mowbray school before the Ripon site opening.

County Councillor Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education and Skills, said: “Providing additional high-quality special school places like this is part of our strategic plan for children with special educational needs and disabilities. We want more children to access the right kind of education locally to cut down on journeys to school which can be across the county in some cases. 

“We are using the funds we have in the most efficient way possible to meet the aims of our strategic plan and to create additional places in the right areas of the county.”

The Ripon site will accommodate 20 children by the end of this school year, rising to 40 from September 2021, with capacity for 60 in due course.

All the children who started last week had previously been in mainstream schools and for some it was the first time they had spent full days in school.

“It’s remarkable to think we have just opened because the children have settled in straight away, even though they are all new to each other,” said Jonathan Tearle. “But among the staff here are some of my most experienced teachers who have transferred from the Mowbray site and new staff have all been working in Mowbray since last autumn, getting to know the way we do things, supporting the individual child to exceed in all areas, social as well as academic. This investment in time and training pays off.”