A South London primary school for children with special educational needs has been given the highest possible rating by Ofsted, with pupils reportedly reading out stories on the phone to elderly people.

Waterside School in Plumstead has been rated ‘Outstanding’ in all areas in a recent report from Ofsted.

The school provides education for pupils with social, emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH) and autism spectrum disorder.

The report praised the school for the “inspiring culture” created by staff, with students said to be capable of focussing extremely well in lessons.

Pupils also reportedly take part in topical debates and philosophical discussions.

Meic Griffiths, executive headteacher of Waterside School, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “They are able to do exactly the same, if not better in some cases, than their mainstream colleagues.

"All they need is their curriculum to be unpicked and an understanding of why their anxiety levels have caused them not to be in school or succeed at school.”

The inspector also said in their report that students and staff had good working relationships, which are built on “mutual respect” and are non-judgmental.

Leaders at the school reportedly help pupils to create positive links with local residents, with some students even reading stories over the phone to elderly citizens.

Mr Griffiths said that the scheme was brought to Waterside after the head of school made contact with the charity who started the initiative, Silver Stories.

He said 16 children from the school each ring an elderly member of the community across the UK for half an hour during a weekly supervised call, which includes a brief chat followed by reading stories from novels.

He told the LDRS: “[Elderly residents] have come back saying it’s just phenomenal that this kid who couldn’t have read their own name four months ago is now reading a book that is fairly complicated and has a lot of inference.”

He added: “To hear the joy that my children have when they come out of reading to their person. I can’t bottle that, I really wish I could.”

The report said the attitude of staff was “overwhelmingly positive” and that they were proud to work at the school.

Mr Griffiths said leaders place a large emphasis on supporting staff, with several members of the team having moved into senior leadership roles.

He told the LDRS: “We have really tricky days. Our children and our families have very complex issues to manage, and what we need to do is be able to pull together as a family.

"We know when one of us isn’t working to our full capacity, the others will pick that up. We’ll make certain that there is never a chance of somebody slipping and falling backwards.”

Waterside School is run by the Imperium Federation, which focuses on providing children with special educational needs the skills required for life.

Labour Councillor Matthew Morrow, cabinet member for children and young people for Greenwich Council, said the authority was delighted with the recent inspection outcome for Waterside School.

He said at a council meeting on October 25 that Mr Griffiths was a brilliant headteacher and that the council was working with the Imperium Foundation to discuss ways to provide further SEMH provision in the borough.

Waterside School provides education for children aged between 5 and 11 years old and reportedly has 33 pupils enrolled. The federation also runs King’s Oak School, a special secondary school in Eltham.