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A case study of an Independent school catering for students with autism in the English West Midlands region.


Riverside Education is a small Independent school for young people with autism and other related SEN issues. It currently has fifty staff and one hundred students. The Riverside Education curriculum described by Ofsted (Nov 2019), as ‘broad and personalised’ is driven by Participatory Action Research(PAR), an approach to research in communities that focuses on participation and action. It is characterised by a cycle of Planning, implementing/acting, observing and reflecting.  We use our own student surveys, assemblies, observations, informal interviews and curriculum reviews to collect information that is used to inform our teaching practice as well as the set-up of the environment. We research with, rather than on participants. Everyone in the school is a participant, contributing to how the curriculum should be taught and how the school should be run.


Abide Zenenga

Headteacher and Founder at Riverside Education

Dr Abide Zenenga is an experienced educationalist with over 25 years of working with young people with autism (14-19). He is a father to a fourteen-year-old boy with autism himself and has interest in advancing the educational opportunities of...

Felicia Towobola

Education Mental Health Practitioner at NHS

Felicia is an Education Mental Health Practitioner (EMHP) with the National Health Service. She has a BSc (Hons) in Psychology from Birmingham City University and is a member of the British Psychological Society. She also has over 7 years...


Carmel Capewell, Dr

Lecturer in Early Years and Child Development at Oxford Brookes University

Carmel is a Lecturer in Early Years and Child Development at Oxford Brookes University. She has a strong interest in developing innovative research methods, particularly to encouraging the participation of young people in expressing and sharing...