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Prior`s Court School
Hermitage, RG18 9NU, UK Thatcham
+44 (0)1635 247202

About us

Prior's Court Foundation is a non-profit making charity dedicated to providing the highest quality of education and care for young people with autism and to promoting best practice and expertise worldwide.

Set up in 1999 by Founding Patron Dame Stephanie Shirley and Principal Robert Hubbard OBE, the Foundation provides the governance and administration for Prior's Court School and Prior's Court Research & Development Centre.

"Bringing up a son with autism made me only too aware of the lack of approprirate provision. When I was inspired to set up the Foundation in 1998, I aimed to address this shortfall and to provide a specialist school which would offer the best education and support for pupils severely affected by their autism.

Only a specialist approach would enable them to access their strengths, reach the potential blocked by anxiety and confusion and so, with support, make the most of their lives and achieve a level of independence.

The expertise and dedication of the specialist team at Prior's Court ensure this. I am enormously proud of the achievements of both pupils and school staff and share their hopes and plans for the future.

Dame Stephanie Shirley
Founding Patron of Prior's Court School & Foundation

Robert Hubbard OBE Dame Stephanie Shirley


Recent News

Plans are underway to bring pygmy goats, chickens and donkeys to support the curriculum and vocational development of pupils at Prior’s Court School with a Countryside Learning Centre.

Horse Power at Greatwood   |  15.06.07

Greatwood logoGreatwood is a centre dedicated to caring for retired racehorses.  They are involved in the rescue, rehibilitation and rehoming of the animals, particularly those who have fallen on hard times.  Greatwood is a registered charity, which is funded solely by kind donations.

Greatwood have recognised the benefits that working with horses have on individuals and have developed a programme called Horse power. 

Dame Stephanie Shirley
Founder's Day 2007   |  13.06.07

Founder's Day 2007 was celebrated on 29th May, with Founding Patron, Dame Stephanie Shirley, staff, trustees and guests.  Founder's Day is held each year on the anniversary of the School's official opening in May 2000 by HRH Princess Anne.

About autism - Priors Court

Autism is an incurable, lifelong neurological disorder which affects as many as 1 in 110 people in the U.K, predominantly males. Varying enormously in severity, all experience difficulty in communicating or forming relationships. Rigid, inflexible thought processes can make them anxious about the world around them. The condition can make life extremely challenging for the families of those affected.

My Special Brother

I know him as my brother
Which seems very strange indeed
This little boy so special
Who knows nothing about me

I often wonder where he goes
In times of private thought
I hope he's happy and content
In just the way he ought

He lives his life in parallel
Across this huge divide
To be here with me but not connect
Growing older side by side

We never play or share or shout
This world he's in will keep me out
I hope one day he'll let me in
So I can be special just to him.

By Hannah Bint, aged 12 years, sister to Jacob

Pupil reading at Prior's Court School
 Prior's Court School
Providing specialist education and care for pupils diagnosed with autism and severe and complex learning difficulties.

The Prior Approach

Prior’s Court School has developed the Prior Approach, a multi-disciplinary programme of educational, communication and daily living practices which has been extensively researched and has been proved to be extremely successful.

Incorporating best practice and the latest contemporary knowledge, the approach was the pioneering work of Robert Hubbard, a renowned expert in the field and co-founder, with Dame Stephanie Shirley, of the School.

The approach focuses on

  • structured teaching and a structured environment
  • communication
  • physical exercise
  • behaviour management
  • therapuetic provision and an inter-disciplinary approach
  • independent living skills and Daily Life Therapy
  • an individual programme of learning, addressing all curriculum areas, structured throughout their waking day 
Classroom at Prior's Court School In the lifeskills suite


Waking Day Curriculum

Each pupil has a co-ordinated, individual programme of learning structured throughout their 'waking day'. 

Consistent across both education and residential departments, the Waking Day curriculum provides each pupil with the opportunity to 

  • access the Whole School Curriculum, including the National Curriculum together with individually planned learning programmes linked to continuous monitoring and evaluation of progress
  • build communication
  • acquire independent living skills
  • develop appropriate sleeping, eating and toileting patterns
  • reduce challenging behaviours
  • focus on vigorous physical exercise

The skills learnt are transferable, with appropriate planning and support, into the home, the local community and future placements.

Prior's Court School pupil out on a trip Independent Living Skills at Prior's Court School


Independence & inclusion

We aim to give our pupils the knowledge and skills to enable them to lead as full and independent a life as possible.

The skills taught within the Prior Approach provide a ‘toolkit’ which can be applied when enjoying the wide range of activities and educational visits out in the community such as shopping, bowling, sailing, horse riding or eating at favourite restaurants.

Lifeskills are further developed with a vocational focus in the ‘Post 16’ unit where projects both within the School and outside offer genuine opportunities to support and extend pupils’ growing independence.

Each pupil is encouraged to reach their full potential with access to subjects such as horticulture, art and craft, daily living skills, woodwork, PHSE (Personal Health & Social Education), physical exercise and ICT.

The pupils are given the opportunity to gain nationally-recognised certificates of achievements (ASDAN modules).

Older pupils are involved in activities providing services for staff and pupils including running a tuck shop, making education resources and recycling.

On site work placements include adminstrative duties, horticulture, printing and mailshots and off-site placements with local and national companies.

Countryside Learning Centre

The success of existing practical based horticultural lessons has demonstrated a need for more real-life settings and experiences that will help our students to understand the educational concepts that can be difficult to grasp inside the classroom.

Prior's Court School are establishing a Countryside Learning Centre within the school grounds to enable our students to access the curriculum more effectively.

The Countryside Learning Centre will consist of four main elements:

horticulture student  


Expand existing horticultural studies to increase the growth of fruit, vegetables, flower and plant cultivation and include the management of the school grounds.

Student stroking donkey  

Animal Care Centre

Establish a new Animal Care Centre with a flock of laying chickens (including an incubator project), pygmy goats and a pair of donkeys.

black rock chickens  

Food & Farming

Undertake a programme of visits to farms in the area to learn about food and farming.


Countryside Access

Utilise the school grounds and woodland and make visits to other areas of interest to build countryside stewardship skills.

Facilities at Priors Court School

Set in beautiful grounds close to the Berkshire Downs, the residential accommodation and educational facilities have been carefully designed to provide a welcoming environment which reflects the special needs of the pupils.

54 acre grounds 

  • natural woodland and sculpture trail
  • trim trail, zip wire, swings, all-weather activity track, sandpit and adventure playground
  • paddocks for horse-riding and new countryside learning centre (opening September)
  • greenhouse, polytunnel and kitchen garden

Excellent facilities include

  • music therapy suite 
  • indoor heated sensory swimming pool
  • gymnasium with trampoline
  • sensory room and soft play room
  • science, food technology and lifeskills suite
  • ICT suite with Smartboard
  • art studio
  • Post 16 vocational unit
Classroom at Prior's Court School Prior's Court School pupil and staff at the Walkathon


Admissions and visits

Prospective parents or carers and professionals are very welcome to visit, view the school and meet staff. We also welcome visits from Local Education Authority officers and other professionals involved in the placement of pupils or in training and consultancy.

We currently have some day places available and a new residential house will open in January 2008 to provide further residential  places.

Open Mornings enable parents to tour the school, meet staff and enquire about available places and the admissions procedure. From 10.30am to 12.30pm.  In order to minimise the disruption to our pupils we limit the number of visitors on each Open Morning. If you would like to attend please contact Reception by phone on 01635 247202 or email: 

Admissions Co-ordinatorPlease contact the Admissions Co-ordinator if you require any further information.

t: +44 (0)1635 245914


Admissions procedure

With the support of the placement authority, parents of prospective pupils and pupils are invited to visit the school for a pre-placement assessment following which the school’s admission panel will make a decision as to the suitability of the placement. If positive, the child and their parent or carer is invited to spend a morning at the school during which time the parents and Assessment team meet to discuss the child’s needs in detail. From this discussion a written report is made which is considered at a second panel meeting after which a final decision is reached.

Fees on application.

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