£4.8m scheme provides school places for 60 children with complex needs

Published on Wednesday, April 6, 2022

THE TRANSFORMATION of a former music and drama center into a purpose-built school for children with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) is now complete, following a major program of works.

Leicester City Council has invested £4.8m in the Knighton Fields Center on Herrick Road to create a modern, flexible school environment for young people with communication and interaction difficulties, including complex autism.

The refurbished premises – now a satellite campus for Ellesmere College – will provide places for 60 children between the ages of 5-19, whose complex needs mean they cannot be accommodated in mainstream settings.

Featuring flexible classroom space, an immersive therapy room, a sensory room, a soft play area and a student kitchen, the remodeled premises now provide a modern teaching environment with all the support that students will need.

Outside, raised beds and outdoor play areas – with specialist equipment – complete the scheme.

Welcoming the completion of works, assistant city mayor for education Cllr Elly Cutkelvin said: “We’re working hard to meet the growing demand for SEND provision in the city, both by increasing capacity at our special schools and by creating additional specialist places within mainstream schools.

“These 60 additional spaces at the new Knighton Fields campus are just part of our commitment to increasing our specialist support for children and young people whose needs can’t be met within mainstream education.

“It’s taken a while for this project to come to fruition, with the COVID pandemic inevitably leading to delays, but I’m very proud of what’s been achieved. The facilities here are now outstanding and will provide our young people with a supportive environment that will allow them to thrive.”

Having been locked up and empty for more than eight years, the two-storey building required extensive remedial works to bring it up to modern standards.

New double-glazed windows have been installed to the rear of the building, while the existing metal windows on the locally-listed front elevations have been refurbished. LED lighting throughout will also help minimize the school’s carbon footprint.

The COVID pandemic and the collapse of the project’s main contractor last year led to the school’s opening being delayed by 12 months, but City Mayor Peter Soulsby is delighted by the quality of the finished scheme.

“I’m very grateful to our in-house project team and to our contractors, MCS Fast Track Ltd, and their supply chain who have overcome huge challenges to complete the refurbishment to such a high standard,” he said.

“The investment we’ve made has brought an important but neglected building back into use – and will help us meet the growing demand for specialist school places.

“This purpose-built site will be run by an established and inspirational special school – Ellesmere College – and will provide much-needed new school places for children with a range of special educational needs.”

All the students at Ellesmere College’s Knighton Fields campus will have an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP) and difficulties with communication and interaction, while many – but not all – will have a diagnosis of autism.

Ellesmere College Executive Principal Steph Beale said: “We’re absolutely delighted with the new premises, which have been carefully planned and designed to meet the needs of our students.

“And while the building will provide the perfect learning environment, it’s our brilliant staff who will bring the school experience to life for our young people.

“Our students are already being introduced to the new site, as we make the gradual transition, but all 60 young people will be in their new school, full-time, after the Easter break – and we’re all looking forward to that very much.”

Ellesmere College’s Knighton Fields campus is part of the city council’s Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Phase 2 expansion works. The council has committed a further £16.5m to expanding its SEND provision over the next two years, with plans already in place to increase capacity at a further eight sites.

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