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The Ridgeway Community School is a special school with 100 pupils ranging from 2 to 19-years-old with a diverse range of learning needs. Following a successful assessment by SGS United Kingdom Ltd in April 2012, The School has achieved Customer Service Excellence. The success builds on the school’s prior achievement of Charter Mark.

“We have a wide customer base and wanted to ensure that we deliver an efficient service,” says Julie James, School Business Manager. “ All our students have severe and profound multiple learning difficulties and many have an additional medical diagnosis as well. Many of our children live in residential care and the majority come in by minibus so we wanted to ensure we were doing everything we could to support hard-to-reach customers like parents, and provide them with the best possible service. We also wanted to benchmark our customer service standards and target areas for improvement.”

Work towards CSE began in September 2011 with a review of existing systems. Julie James attended a one-day course run by SGS United Kingdom Ltd to introduce the CSE process. Then the SGS assessor visited the school and spent a morning going through the process with her.  All through the assessment process the assessor played a supportive role and stayed in regular contact, providing clarification about the type of evidence required for each criterion.

“Going through the process has raised awareness of the value of providing good customer service to our stakeholders,” says Julie James. “ Within the administration team we now have half-termly meetings with customer care as an agenda item for every meeting.”

And in its recruitment, training and staff development processes, the school ensures customers receive all the right information via email, parent mail, phone, the website, and people visiting the school.

The school has recently developed a DVD about its work to send to prospective parents and funders.  We’ve made other changes too, such as our students showing visitors around the school, and involving them in the interviewing process,” adds Julie James.

“We’re also looking at new ways to help customers with specific needs. Some of our parents have to deal with problems a mainstream parent might not encounter. Staff can visit parents at home after school, which helps implement strategies their children learn in school.”

The school also arranges informal parent lunches once a month. “Parents told us they would like training about how to deal with autism and other parenting issues. So now we run positive parenting courses. And we’re sharing our best practices on communication and interaction with our partner schools and opening our facilities for their use. So we’ve already made some very positive changes and adjustments to our practice.”

To celebrate the school’s success, an awards day is scheduled for July 6, when the local MP will visit to meet students and look around the school.

The CSE assessor adds, “The School has moved seamlessly form Charter Mark to Customer Service Excellence (CSE) because they focus on who their customers are, how they consult and engage with them and how they measure satisfaction.  In keeping with the highest ideals of the Standard they recognise the importance of identifying the needs of their segmented customer groups and make every effort to deliver their services in such a way that, wherever possible, they meet those needs and aspirations or move in that direction.

In the Assessor’s opinion they are an exemplar school in their sector.”

SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company.  Recognised as the global benchmark for quality and integrity, we employ over 70,000 people and operate a network of more than 1,350 offices and laboratories around the world.

Notes for editors:

The Ridgeway Community School , based in Farnham, Surrey, is a special school for pupils and students ranging from 2 to 19 years old with a diverse range of learning needs.

The SGS Group is the world's leading organisation for inspection, assessment and certification. The group works in partnership with thousands of government departments around the globe to provide a wide range of services. All this experience has been brought together to help organisations in their journey to Customer Service Excellence.