A north Norfolk special school is celebrating as it approaches the end of a successful first academic year at its new premises.

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Formerly based at East Runton, St Andrew’s School relocated last September to Aylmerton Hall, the base for Wood-Dene School, an independent school that closed after 25 years because of falling pupil numbers and unpaid fees.

Headteacher Gillian Baker said she was delighted at how the transition had gone.

“This new facility has allowed us to expand further,” she said.

“We have spent £60,000-£70,000 on the refurbishment and it’s been a huge job. We will now be maintaining the building until September and after that, if the budget allows, will see what else we can do.”

Mrs Baker, who also teaches science at the school, said she was “proud” of the curriculum, which teaches children not only academic skills but also vital life skills.

“We have much better premises and because we have a gym of our own, science lab of our own and a lot more space, the curriculum has expanded and improved,” she said.

“It includes life, social and language skills especially for children with autism.”

In the last year the students have learnt new life skills such as horse riding, tennis, bowling and cooking.

And as part of the refurbishment the school’s two-acre site has new offices, meeting rooms, key stage two and three areas, quiet rooms, a computer room, library, art room, design and technology workshop and a life-skills room.

Mrs Baker added: “The students are aiming for good grades but it is also important they have life skills as it improves their quality of life.

“We want them to get out and do stuff - we don’t just get it from books, a lot of learning is visual.”

The excellent start has been marred slightly because the school is going through a complaints procedure on the back of its latest Ofsted inspection.

The school was graded “good” overall, but Mrs Baker was unhappy with some aspects of the inspection, including the fact that health and safety was rated “satisfactory”.

She said: “The mediator rang me and talked through all the points with me and now we just wait.”

The school caters for students with autism or social and communication difficulties and is now seeking approval to increase the number of students to 20 and to extend the age range to 16 years.

The school also aims to bring a nursery and a key stage four classroom to the site and to introduce a flexible boarding scheme where students can spend an evening at the school learning skills needed to manage a home.

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