Plans for a new free school in Norwich for children with autism unveiled

Barry Payne - head of Parkside School, Norwich. Photo: Andy Darnell

Barry Payne - head of Parkside School, Norwich. Photo: Andy Darnell - Credit: Archant © 2009

Ambitious plans to create a new free school for Norfolk children with autism have been revealed, ahead of a bid for Department for Education approval.

It would cater for up to 100 young people aged four to 19 and be known as The Wherry School, and its backers hope it could open in September 2016.

The school would be created in Norwich, and cater for pupils who, due to their autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), cannot access a mainstream school, leading to poor progress, isolation, exclusion or non-attendance.

Barry Payne, a member of the charitable trust which will be set up to establish the school, and headteacher of Parkside Complex Needs School, said: 'There are too many young people in Norfolk whose needs are not being met by mainstream schools, despite their best endeavours.

'This group of pupils requires specialist provision, which will cater for the very distinct needs.

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'As an academy, The Wherry School will be able to make use of the flexibilities allowed within the curriculum to deliver an individualised programme for all our learners.

'The aim will be to bring together the key areas of education, health, care and family support to ensure the best possible outcomes for this group.

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'We will treat each young person as an individual, allowing them to develop and progress so that they can access the world in which they live and work as independently as possible.'

The school would have a catchment area of the whole of Norfolk, but expects the majority of pupils would come from the Norwich or greater Norwich area, and the trust will bid for government approval in October, and should know whether it is successful by Christmas.

The trust has members from Parkside Community Trust, Central Norwich Foundation Trust, Autism Anglia and Children Assessment and Therapy Services.

Creating more places for young people with complex needs is a key plank in Norfolk County Council's strategy to save money.

James Joyce, chairman of its Children's Services Committee, said: 'We are fully supportive of this proposal and the specialist support a new school would provide for children with autism in the Norwich area.'

He added: 'It would help to support our overall strategy to ensure that children with special educational needs and disabilities are educated as close to home as possible.'

An exhibition will take place at The Base at The Hewett School on Tuesday, July 1, between 10am and 2pm, with a public meeting at Parkside School on College Road between 7pm and 9pm on Thursday, July 3.

What do you think of the plans for a new school? Write, giving full contact details, to Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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