DISCOVERY SPECIAL SCHOOL: Long awaited school will open in 2022
A LONG-AWAITED school for youngsters with special educational needs will open in 2022 after councillors gave plans the thumbs up.
A Discovery Special School was given the green light by Middlesbrough Council’s planning committee last week with places for 84 youngsters aged four to 11.
And the decision has opened the door for work to start at the former Nature’s World site, off Sandy Flatts Lane, in spring.
Drawings have offered a first glimpse of how the site will look – with hopes the school will meet the increasing demand on special school places across Teesside when it opens in the summer of 2022.
The free school has taken five years to come to fruition since the Tees Valley Education Multi Academy Trust started talks with the Department for Education.
It will feature a therapy suite, a physiotherapy room, soft play, light and sound therapy and “rebound” therapy.
Officials say outdoor learning will also be a big feature of the school in a bid to encourage exploration and supported risk-taking.
Brambles Primary Academy, on Kedward Avenue, is hosting 60 children at the moment.
That figure is set to rise to 72 next academic year – and this is forecast to rise to 84 when the new school in Acklam opens.
Last week’s planning committee voted unanimously to approve the new school despite one or two concerns being aired about possible congestion problems on nearby Sandy Flatts Lane.
Katrina Morley, leader at Tees Valley Education, said the permission was a “phenomenal step forward”
“It means that the DfE can start to work with their contractor,” she added.
“This specially constructed, state-of-the-art facility will be a brilliant school for families across Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland.
“There has been an urgent need for bespoke, stand-alone specialist provision for local children with complex learning needs and the Sandy Flatts site is the perfect location for the school.”
Volunteers have helped maintain land covered by the former Nature’s World attraction since it closed its doors in 2012.
The trust says it’s built a good relationship with The Friends of Nature’s World with plans for the group to work with the academy on developing sensory gardens at the site.
Land totalling 4.5 acres was sold off by Middlesbrough Council for £727,600 at the start of 2019 to pave the way for the new school.
Mrs Morley praised the work for Discovery’s head teachers, Jennifer Duncan and Emma Lowe, and believed the school would provide a vital service for generations.
“I can’t put into words how it will feel when we see our dream and commitment put into bricks and mortar,” she added.
“It will be a privilege and honour.
“To know we are doing that for some of the most vulnerable children across Middlesbrough and Redcar is very special.
“But it will also create jobs and bring millions of pounds-worth of investment into the area.”
Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston led the Tees Valley Education Trust’s board when efforts first started to bring a school to the site – and has hailed Discovery for “blazing a trail”.
Discovery’s head teacher Jennifer Duncan said: “While we have made our current temporary accommodation home for the last two years, the vision we have all contributed to of our very own purpose-built home is now about to become a reality.
“After a challenging year for the whole community, to start 2021 with this amazing news is simply fabulous.
“This is a great moment for the children, their families and all those who have been involved in the Discovery journey so far.”
Meanwhile, leaders in neighbouring Redcar and Cleveland are set to approve the expansion of Kirkleatham Hall School, near Redcar, to educate more youngsters with special educational needs and disabilities.
The council’s cabinet will make a decision on January 26.
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
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