Boys with social, emotional and mental health difficulties often end up receiving a second-rate education, but Wilds Lodge School believes they deserve better. The specialist school has developed a unique approach blending therapy, education and care to create an environment where boys with complex needs can thrive.

Wilds Lodge School was established in Rutland in 2007 and is an independent school catering for around 80 to 90 boys aged from five to 19. It offers both day and boarding provision but, as children come from different parts of the country, the majority are weekly boarders.

The school is based on a ther apeutic model, with an emphasis on making therapy an integral part of school life rather than a bolt-on. “The key difference between us and most schools is our counselling team,” says school Principal Robin Lee. “This includes a child and adolescent psychother apist, an ar t psychotherapist, a dance and movement psychotherapist and an equine therapist, as well as a full-time educational psychologist. They all work closely with the teaching staff and care staff. We’re trying to blend therapy, education and care – it should be seamless.”

As a young, dynamic establishment, Wilds Lodge is exploring what it means to be a therapeutic school. “It’s something that has changed over time,” says Lee. “We’re looking at different forms of therapy, which is quite exciting.” As well as the range and scope of therapeutic services, the school is also very proud that its boys receive a first-rate education.

“Our children are the ones that traditionally don’t get the best because of their needs,” he says. “My determination is to create a school that has the best teachers and the best facilities.” The school has around 28 specialist teacher s offering a broad curriculum that encompasses academic subjects alongside more vocational courses such as welding and mechanics.

While Lee acknowledges that it takes courage to establish a school of this type , Wilds Lodge is clearly succeeding. It is consistently ranked Outstanding by Ofsted in both full inspections and its annual care inspections, and has also been accredited by the National Autistic Society and by Neil Hawkes, founder of the organisation Values-based Education.

Lee and his staff feel a huge responsibility towards providing the best opportunities for boys who are often dismissed as simply “naughty”. By placing an equal emphasis on pupils’ educational, social and psychological development, Wilds Lodge School provides a safe, nurturing but academically thorough environment, where boys with even the most complex needs can excel.