Creating a family friendly environment that enables pupils to develop “skills for daily life” is the secret to a successful special needs school.

So says the headteacher of Dysart School following its recent “outstanding” rating from school inspectors Ofsted.

The Surbiton School, which teaches children with learning difficulties, is among only five special schools in the UK to be given top marks in all five inspection categories.

The school places special emphasis on teaching the children practical skills such as shopping and cooking, while also promoting “the love and joy of learning”.

Headteacher John Prior said: “We teach them practical things that will enable them to have more independence.

“Estate agents say location, location location, we say communication, communication, communication.

“From the moment they come in aged four we work on gaining independence through developing communication skills.

“The key to our success though is relationship with the network of parents. We work with them, with some on a daily basis, to tailor the needs of the children. It really is a team effort.”

Mr Prior describes working with special needs children as a calling, something he thinks takes passion and commitment.

He said: “The spectrum of needs at the school is very broad with some children having severe leaning difficulties on top psychical impairments and complex health needs. But the rewards here are immense and anyone who does it will tell you that when you do make a difference in these children’s life, well, let’s just say there is nothing else like it.”

Despite its outstanding rating in the recent report the school is determined not to rest on their laurels.

Mr Prior said: “We don’t get carried away at Dysart so our initial reaction was how can we get better?"