Work begins on free school for children with autism
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Work to create a brand new school dedicated to children who have autistic disorders has got underway.
Yesterday's ground-breaking ceremony for the Wherry School, a new free school that will be based on the site of the Hewett Academy, on Hall Road, Norwich, marked the formal start of the construction project.
The site is due to be handed over to the school in August 2017, with the school planning to open its doors to pupils the following month.
Barry Payne, chairman of The Wherry School Trust, who is also executive headteacher of Parkside School, which caters for children with complex needs, said: 'It is going to be for children on the autistic spectrum, but those who you would normally find in a mainstream setting. That means those children who can't cope with mainstream schools, but who have an ability like you would have in a mainstream school.
'They will have the same abilities that you would find in mainstream schools, from the brightest to moderate learning difficulties, but their needs are not being met in a mainstream setting.'
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He said the school aimed to address the problem highlighted by national statistics that show that 86pc of people diagnosed with autism are not in full-time employment.
The school is due to open with 48 children and young people, but Mr Payne said it has already received expressions of interest for 150 children.
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It will have four major sections: a primary department, a lower secondary department for Years 7 and 8, an upper secondary department for Years 9, 10 and 11, and a further education department.
Mr Payne added: 'It will have the same curriculum entitlement you get in mainstream schools, but there will be core differences.
'There will be a personalised approach for every single child, because some of those coming in will not have been in school for a long time, and they may have rituals or fears or difficulties.
'Some have real sensory issues, such as to sound or light. Things of that sort can be very bad for them, so it's really difficult for them to fit into mainstream school.
'We won't just be looking at their educational development. It will be around their personal and social development as well.
'The reason young people with autism don't succeed now is not about their academic ability, but their personal and social development.'
He added that as well as supporting the children and young people who attend the school, it would also support their families.
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