Teen's space dreams soar after GCSE success at Spalding special school
A teenager's dreams of a career in space research have gone into orbit after earning the best GCSE results ever for a Spalding special school.
Nathaniel Reynolds (16), of Sutterton, is starting his second week as a sixth-former studying A-Levels in Chemistry, Maths and Physics having collected GCSE grades of 7 and 8 in English Language, Maths and Double Science at The Priory School, Spalding.
The Boston Grammar School student, who wants to be an astrophysicist studying stars, planets and galaxies, is thought to be the first autistic sixth-former ever at the school, with his amazing grades leaving Nathaniel, his mother Ros and teachers in Spalding amazed.
Nathaniel said: "I was genuinely quite surprised because I was after grade 6s, not 7s and 8s at all.
"When I started my GCSEs, it gave me something big to work for and I didn't have time to mess around.
"I was quite young when I first started reading about space so doing a GCSE in double science was good because there was a lot of written and practical work.
"I also need to carry out experiments which were considered when deciding what exam papers I would take.
"For double science alone, there were six different exam papers, each lasting an hour and 15 minutes.
"I'm proud of the education that I managed to get at The Priory School and the qualifications I've achieved."
Nathaniel started his education at Kirton Primary School which was named Primary School of the Year at the fourth Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian Education Awards in July.
Ros said: "The staff at Kirton Primary School recognised that Nathaniel was autistic and it's to their credit that after Year 1, he was transferred to Gosberton House Academy.
"Nathaniel enjoyed his time at Gosberton but he had a hard time when moving from class to class as he went up in years.
"So in his last year there, they kept Nathaniel in the same class, with the same teacher, rather than moving him."
Nathaniel was given similar help when he moved to The Priory School, part of the Spalding Special Schools Federation, in 2013.
He said: "The teachers tried to encourage us to be more independent, but they still provided me with a lot of support.
"But sometimes, I needed somewhere quiet to go when I was visibly disruptive and, once a week, I would talk to the head teacher about what was going on."
Ros said: "Nathaniel had the academic skills of a 16-year-old, but he wanted to play the kind of games that seven or eight-year-olds would play.
"In Year Nine, Nathaniel's challenging behaviour reached its peak and it was a real rollercoaster ride.
"So the school went out of its way to help him and on GCSE results day, we were told to come to The Priory School where the head of school, Barrie Taylor, was just beaming.
"When he said that Nathaniel was the top child at the school, he was fit to burst and when I saw the grades, my jaw hit the floor."
Daran Bland, executive head teacher of The Priory School, said: "We were all really thrilled with Nathaniel’s outcomes as he has come such a long way and we are all really proud of him.
"As a special school, to have a pupil leave with such impressive results has reinforced the principle that with the right provision and ethos, amazing things are possible.
"I would also like to thank Spalding Academy for its agreement to include Nathaniel into the science classes there.
"As a small special school, we would not be able to routinely provide GCSE science to our pupils on site.
"Therefore, the partnership with Spalding Academy is an excellent example of local schools working together to meet need and overcome the obstacles that disability can put in a person’s way."
Nathaniel was also praised by Spalding Today columnist and campaigner of autistic issues, performance poet Callum Brazzo, of Spalding.
He said: "I'm really pleased to hear about Nathaniel's success as I think that autistic people, like anyone, should have any supposed boundaries for them challenged.
"Autistic people who show so-called 'challenging behaviour' is generally communication, often about sensory or social issues within their environment.
"So it's not the autistic person's 'fault', despite a lot of people, including parents, teachers and carers, seeing it as their choice."