New special school opens in South Gloucestershire as demand for places soars
Plans for the new Soundwell Academy to serve South Gloucestershire, Bristol and Bath & North East Somerset took an an important step forward this week with the start of construction marked on site.
Twenty-eight students started at Learn@ Soundwell Academy last week (Monday 7 September) in temporary accommodation hosted by Patchway Community School. When the permanent build is open, 88 pupils will be welcomed at the new site from September 2021.
Learn@ Multi-Academy Trust has been working with three local councils and the Department for Education to progress detailed plans to provide a 136-place school for students aged between 5 and 18 who have a combination of social, emotional, mental health or speech, language and communication needs.
The new school will provide much needed weekday overnight support and accommodation in a 12-place respite unit and a 20-place sixth form.
Construction work will see the old 4.8 acre Soundwell College site in Kingswood become a modern school including vocational areas for engineering, vehicle workshop, hair and beauty and hospitality and catering training. Part of the current site is being demolished and rebuilt with the rest of the college buildings refurbished.
Providing employment for up to 80 staff across teaching, administration, technical support, catering and maintenance it is anticipated the school will reach full capacity by September 2023, filling the 136 student places.
Learn@ Multi-Academy Trust Chief Executive, Peter Evans, said: Our new school is modelled on KnowleDGE Academy which has an excellent track record in providing tailored learning for children with a variety of complex needs. Too often we are turning families away as we do not have enough places to offer. Many of the young people we see have not had the best start at school for reasons that are not their fault. We aim to turn this around for them and will continue to work closely with local primary and secondary schools for early planning and referrals.”
Councillor Kevin Guy, cabinet member for Children’s Services at Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “It is always good news when a new specialist provision opens for children and young people with SEND, so I am very pleased to hear the construction of Soundwell Academy is now underway. The school will provide much needed places for children in Bath and North East Somerset and will help disadvantaged pupils to reach their potential.”
Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Young People, and Lead Member for Children's Services at Bristol City Council, said: “Every child deserves the opportunity to thrive, and reach their full potential in a supportive and inclusive environment. As part of this, alongside Learn@ Multi Academy Trust and the government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), we have secured space for 80 of our pupils once the school has been built. This week marks an important step forward for everyone involved in the project, as we start construction and welcome students to the temporary school site in Patchway.”
South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet Member for Schools, Skills and Employment, Councillor Erica Williams said: “It is fantastic to see that work on Soundwell Academy free school is now underway and we can look forward to a brand-new educational facility for children and young people with a range of additional educational needs here in South Gloucestershire. Improving school standards is the Administration’s number one priority, which is why last year we agreed a record four-year, £78 million capital investment programme, to build new and improve existing school buildings across the district. This new 136 place school will provide children from our area with high-quality and modern learning facilities to help them learn and thrive. I’m really looking forward to seeing the new school take shape over the coming months.”