Sunday, 24 October 2021

Special school's £500,000 appeal for new classroom

A SPECIAL needs school in Sonning Common hopes to raise £500,000 to convert an old classroom block so it is suitable for its students.

Bishopswood Special School wants to remodel the six-classroom building at Chiltern Edge School in Reades Lane by adding adapted toilets and showers, a sensory room and hoists to help children move around.

Headteacher Janet Kellett said the extra space would mean the school might be able to take more pupils than its current limit of 24.

The building was used for English lessons at Chiltern Edge, where Bishopswood already has a suite of rooms as well a nursery at Valley Road Primary School in Henley and a purpose-built primary department at Sonning Common Primary School.

Mrs Kellett said renting and adapting the building would be far cheaper than buying land elsewhere.

She said: “I have been given permission, if we get all the relevant planning issues agreed, to convert it. It’s really close to our current classrooms so it’s an excellent opportunity.”

She said architects had carried out a feasibility study and estimated the conversion would cost £500,000.

“That’s the cost of making it suitable for children with severe and profound learning difficulties,” she said. “We are now exploring all areas for trying to fund it.

“We are short of space and some children find noisy environments very challenging. Also the new building would be further from the road, which would help with health and safety.”

Mrs Kellett said the school needed to fund-raise as it was unlikely to obtain funding from Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority.

She said the work could be done and paid for in stages.

“We are quite low on their list so we need to get out and do it rather than waiting,” she said. “There has been a lot of interest in it because it will be good for our children.

“It will be especially helpful for children with multiple difficulties. It provides more opportunity for movement.”

Bishopswood School serves South Oxfordshire, Caversham and Reading and accepts children up to the age of 16.

Secondary classes began at Chiltern Edge in 1984 after the school was merged with the former Parkview School in Reading and the Mary Sheridan Unit at the old Borocourt Hospital in Peppard.

Bishopswood’s existing facilities at Chiltern Edge include specialist hygiene and toilet facilities, a hydrotherapy pool and a sensory room.

Students and staff also have access to the secondary school’s library, science laboratories, main hall, drama studio, gym, sports hall and meeting rooms.

Some students also join the English, IT, art, design and technology and PE lessons. Vicky Doe, fund-raiser for the Bishopswood School Association, said the extra space might mean the school was able to accommodate pupils up to the age of 18.

Mrs Doe, from Chazey Heath, said: “Children are not able to stay on after they are 16 because of the lack of space.

“It’s important for the children to have the space and for it to be properly equipped.

“We want to be able to take more pupils, have better facilities and allow children to carry on until they are 18 so the staff at Bishopswood can continue working with them.

“I have spoken to parents who have young people who want to be able to stay on for two more years like they can at other schools. I know there are parents who don’t know how to provide for their children.”

Mrs Doe is organising a summer fair at the Abbey Rugby Club in Peppard Road on August 19 from 11am to 5pm.

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