'First of its kind' - New complex needs school opens in Thetford

The school, which officially opened in April, welcomed six pupils and 10 members of staff on their first day this month.

The Thetford school, which officially opened in April, welcomed six pupils and 10 members of staff on their first day this month. - Credit: Sandra Govender

A new independent special school catering for children with social, emotional and mental health challenges has opened in Thetford.

The Damara School, part of the Lotus Academy Trust, is the first of its kind in the town, offering a "unique blend" of academic and therapeutic education tailored to the needs of each child.

Located in a historic listed building on Bridge Street, the school has undergone "considerable works" to transform the building into a welcoming environment.

The Damara School in Thetford caters for children with mental health challenges.

The Damara School in Thetford caters for children with mental health challenges. - Credit: Sandra Govender

Sandra Govender, chief executive of the Lotus Trust, and of Athena Education Support CIC, said it took two years of intensive planning to open the school doors to nine vulnerable pupils at the start of September.

The chief executive added: "This amazing feat was made possible with the help of staff, trustees and volunteers who worked tirelessly in either renovating the building or setting up policies and structures to ensure that the school opens on a solid foundation."

The school specialises in working with children with social, emotional and mental health challenges.

The school specialises in working with children with social, emotional and mental health challenges. - Credit: Sandra Govender

Julie Cox, assistant head, said: “I am really excited and looking forward to working with children and families in our new school and seeing them succeed in their educational journey.”

The school, which officially opened in April, welcomed six pupils and 10 members of staff on their first day this month.

Sandra Govender, CEO of Athena Education Support (right), Julie Cox, pastoral support manager (left)

Sandra Govender, CEO of the Lotus Trust (right) and Julie Cox, assistant head. - Credit: Archant

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The day saw pupils and staff take part in activities such as 'egg drop wonder', which involved children designing a protective egg covering before dropping them from a height to ensure their egg was the least damaged, which the school said helped them "build trust and form strong relationships".

Cath Catt, chairman of the Lotus Academy Trust’s members committee, said: “We are delighted to be opening this much needed special school, offering a bespoke, holistic and therapeutic curriculum."

The chairman added that they look forward to working with pupils and their families.

The Damara School in Thetford is the first of its kind in the town.

The Damara School in Thetford is the first of its kind in the town. - Credit: Sandra Govender

The new school also has the backing of the local community, including businessman and owner of the Thomas Paine Hotel, Gez Chetal.

He said: “I'm delighted to be associated with a great organisation caring for our community to the full and I look forward to bringing Damara into the life and spirit of local children and families.”

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