Contractors are in the final stages of work on site at three projects – exceeding £15m in investment by Somerset County Council – to improve provision for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) in Somerset.
Work at Fiveways Special School and Fairmead Special School, both in Yeovil, and the Holway Centre in Taunton is due to be completed over the school summer holiday ready for the start of the new school year in September 2021.
£5.5m is being invested at Fiveways to create an extension providing four additional classrooms and a new adventure playground. At Fairmead, £6.9m is being spent to replace six classrooms, while also expanding capacity at the school through provision of a further six new classrooms. The Holway Centre, which used to be a primary school, is being refurbished and repurposed to enable full occupation by the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU). Works include creation of workshops and practical spaces for young people to learn trades including mechanics and construction with an investment of £2.85m.
Councillor Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “I’m very pleased to see work on these three projects coming to fruition. I know that each space will be a valuable asset for the children and young people of Somerset.
“Somerset County Council is committed to improving SEND services, including through investing in state-of-the-art new buildings to make a real difference to young people’s lives and improve educational outcomes. I hope that everyone attending these settings from September will enjoy the positive learning environment these new facilities will provide.”
Tracy Felstead, Headteacher at Fairmead School, said: “We are very excited to see the expansion of specialist provision in our local community. We are looking forward to transforming the lives of more young people in South Somerset. The young people are looking forward to using the new and exciting facilities this extension brings us”.
Mark Collis, Headteacher at Fiveways School, who is retiring this month, said: “We are very excited to start to use these new high-quality teaching spaces designed specifically around the needs of our young people. In addition, a fantastic new adventure playground is also being built in which children will learn while having fun. This is only possible due the very kind support of the wider community”.
Kim Lawrence, Headteacher at Taunton Deane Partnership College, which includes the Holway Centre, said: “The refurbishment at the Holway Centre is really exciting. The work we do at Taunton Deane Partnership College is always looking at supporting our young people both now and in preparation for their next steps. Having the opportunity to access fully equipped classrooms and vocational spaces, including a workshop and teaching kitchen, are key to this. Our staff work hard to meet the needs of children and young people who have often struggled in mainstream settings and I am pleased that we now have the facilities to help them with this”.
Ceremonies to mark the completion of these projects – all funded and managed by Somerset County Council – are being planned by the schools for the autumn term.
These developments are the latest in a stream of investment in SEND education. Somerset County Council recently announced that it spent £23m to create a new special school – Polden Bower School in Bridgwater – and work has started on a £1.87m project to create a new hydrotherapy pool at Selworthy School in Taunton.