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Take a tour of Norfolk's £14m world-class complex needs school

PUBLISHED: 07:30 28 June 2019 | UPDATED: 07:30 28 June 2019

Karin Heap, headteacher at Chapel Green School in Old Buckenham, for children with complex needs. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Karin Heap, headteacher at Chapel Green School in Old Buckenham, for children with complex needs. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

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Educating children with profound physical and mental difficulties requires high-class facilities - and a complex needs school in Norfolk thinks its new £14m building is up to the challenge.

Inside an early years classroom at Chapel Green School in Old Buckenham, for children with complex needs. Picture: Victoria PertusaInside an early years classroom at Chapel Green School in Old Buckenham, for children with complex needs. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

The purpose-built Chapel Green School in Old Buckenham, which replaced Chapel Road School, caters for children aged three to 19 with a range of difficulties - from those with autism who have struggled in mainstream school to children using wheelchairs, oxygen masks and feeding tubes.

It was funded by Norfolk County Council supported by a £3.9m government grant and was designed with input from staff, parents and pupils.

Its first 63 pupils arrived in January 2018, with the numbers growing to 87 in September 2018 and set to increase again to 101 in September 2019.

A formal opening event is due to take place today (Friday, June 28) and will be attended by special guests including Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman.

The dining room at Chapel Green School in Old Buckenham, for children with complex needs. Picture: Victoria PertusaThe dining room at Chapel Green School in Old Buckenham, for children with complex needs. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Headteacher Karin Heap said the pupils, for whom disruption can be particularly distressing, felt at home in the new building.

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"In the old school we were 'outstanding', but how much more can we do now?" she said.

"We know we are going to get more children and what we have works really well. It is about taking everybody with you and making sure everybody has a say. It is a tall order, but we managed to do it to turn the building into something that works.

The hydrotherapy pool at Chapel Green School in Old Buckenham, for children with complex needs. Picture: Victoria PertusaThe hydrotherapy pool at Chapel Green School in Old Buckenham, for children with complex needs. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

"A lot of the staff are new and because they are in this lovely building they see the potential and they are absolutely galloping away with new ideas for learning."

Flexibility is built into the school's fabric: its classrooms are designed for different activities to happen simultaneously; classes have access to their own outdoor learning and play space and a separate quiet room; and there are specialist facilities including a hydrotherapy pool, sensory rooms and physical therapy sessions.

There are also facilities to help students get ready for independent life including vocational learning in horticulture, animal care, hospitality and retail and a "life skills" room, laid out like a flat, to practise domestic tasks.

Ms Heap said job prospects for young people with profound needs were limited, but equipping them with a skill set could open up opportunities for volunteering or assisted employment.

The The "life skills" room, to help pupils get to grips with independent living, at Chapel Green School in Old Buckenham, for children with complex needs. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

The school, designed by NPS Property Consultants and built by Morgan Sindall, has been commended by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) which named it the East of England project of the year at its 2019 awards.

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