The mayor has hailed the “momentous” opening of a long-awaited school for children with special educational needs.
The new £10m Discovery Special Academy will cater for more than 100 children aged four to 11 with complex and significant learning, communication, physical and medical needs. The new site, which has been seven years in the making, will act as a regional hub with youngsters from across Teesside and North Yorkshire attending.
In April this year, a further £6.2m funding from the Department of Education was approved by the council for secondary school places for children with severe learning difficulties. The council is currently scoping out a suitable site within the town for a Discovery Secondary Academy for those aged 11-16.
Independent Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: “It’s a momentous achievement for all involved in this magnificent project, ensuring Middlesbrough now leads the way with a trail-blazing specialist facility. Discovery represents a ground-breaking solution to help solve a really pressing need for children with a range of complex needs across our town and neighbouring Redcar.
“It was uplifting to see the school and wider provision in use, making a difference and improving lives. The joy on the faces of staff and pupils alike was fantastic to see.”
While leaders had hoped to move children to the new Sandy Flatts Lane school in June this year, “repeated and continued delays” meant the Acklam facility did not open its doors until September. It is built at the former Nature’s World site and is among the first free schools, which means it is funded by the government but not run by Middlesbrough Council.
Tees Valley Education chief executive Katrina Morley said: “Discovery’s building is a beacon of excellence for specialist provision and education. Its legacy is already changing lives and will continue to do so for generations to come.”
The purpose-built therapeutic and educational provision will also act as a regional hub for services and partners including NHS physiotherapists plus a range of occupational therapists and sensory experts. The facility features a mixture of bespoke therapy suites and rooms designed to support the development of children with complex and significant medical, physical, and learning needs.
Executive head teacher for Discovery and SEND Jennifer Duncan said: “It’s been a long journey, but you just have to walk through the academy, in and out of all the learning and therapy spaces, to know it was worth every step. The children have settled into their new environment incredibly quickly, and this is down to the dedication and determination of staff to have everything ready in a very short timeframe.
“It’s humbling to think that it will be here, serving the Middlesbrough and Tees Valley community, for years to come. It is a legacy that so many children, their families, staff and many others have helped to create. Each and every person involved so should stop, pause and take a moment to stand tall and feel proud, saying ‘I helped build this’.”
The trust’s director of SEND and inclusion Emma Lowe has praised those that made this scheme possible and said the school and therapeutic provision were state of the art. She added: “There were undoubtedly times when it felt like the odds were stacked against us but with that grit and determination that Teessiders are so renowned for, we stuck at it, doubled down and made sure we delivered.”
TeesideLive – October 2022