Attleborough school officially opens new improvements

Improvements at a south Norfolk special school were officially unveiled yesterday, including a new entrance, learning and office areas.

For the first time, wheelchair users at Chapel Road School, in Attleborough, will be able to enter the building independently thanks to a modern doorway which opens at the push of a button.

The building's interior has also been altered to allow for increased office space, a new storage area and ICT room which can accommodate up to eight children.

It means staff, who have been sharing desks or working from home due to a lack of space, can now work under one roof.

The 50-year-old school, which teaches youngsters with complex education needs, is oversubscribed and has campaigned for almost three decades to relocate to another site.

Money for the long-awaited rebuild had been pledged in the Building for Schools (BSF) programme, but this was scrapped by the coalition government in July.

Headteacher Karin Heap said the cost of the work had been met by the school's devolved capital fund from Norfolk County Council, which had been saved for three years.

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She said the improvements have given the school a little more space to play with while its campaign to relocate continues.

'The fact is our youngsters can now enter the building by pushing a button. They have at least one access to the main building they can use independently,' said Mrs Heap.

'It's not a lot, but it makes things so much better.'

On Monday, the school also hosted a meeting where it invited the public to make suggestions on how the building could develop – with or without government funding.

In the spirit of the government's Big Society principle, the event, which was chaired by local social enterprise expert Robert Ashton, wanted to hear how the school could be also be used by community groups, what services it could provide other than education, where it could be located and how it could encourage investment.

About 20 people attended, including school staff and governors, representatives from other Attleborough schools, local councillors and Mencap.

Mrs Heap said it was a small but effective meeting which got the ball rolling.

'We have always been very fortunate in having the support of the community as well as the local government. We now need to wait for the announcements this week and keep chipping away with our own ideas,' she said.

'We do not know what's going to come out of these talks but at least we're going in the right direction.'

For more information or to suggest an idea, call Robert Ashton on 01953 605000.