Sunderland special school head's delight at move to new site

A Sunderland special school’s move to a new purpose-built site will ‘transform opportunities’ for the city’s most vulnerable young people, says its head teacher.

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 5:13 pm

Plans to relocate Sunningdale School from its current home in the former Springwell Infant School to a new home in Doxford Park Way were given the green light at a meeting of the city council’s Planning and Highways (East) Committee last month.

James Waller, who was appointed headteacher earlier this year, welcomed news it would be on the receiving end of a £13million investment from the council as part of a £35million capital programme to deliver new and renovated school buildings across the city.

Sunningdale, which caters for children aged two to 11 with severe and profound multiple learning difficulties, is currently based in the former Springwell Infant School, which has been adapted over the years.

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Headteacher James Waller outside Sunningdale School,
Headteacher James Waller outside Sunningdale School,

The move to the new building will deliver specialist rooms and equipment for up to 136 children, as well as ample space for wheelchairs and equipment.

“Our children have increasingly complex needs,” said James.

"It is absolutely wonderful to be able to provide them with the life-changing experiences we offer at school, but it is not without its challenges.

“It would be hard to overemphasise the difference the investment will make to the care and support we will be able to offer.

The current Sunningdale School site

“When the council first came out and spoke to us about its plans, our jaws just hit the floor. And working with them – seeing how they have listened and responded to the things we have asked for – has just been amazing."

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Features of the new site include:

*wide hallways and corridors to allow wheelchair access;

Headteacher James Waller with a display about the new school

*hoists to help some of the least mobile children access spaces they may otherwise be unable to;

*a hydrotherapy pool;

*multi-sensory spaces where the school can provide light therapy;

*physical therapy rooms and a dedicated rebound therapy room, using trampolines to help children feel weightless and move their body in different ways;

How the new building will look

*outdoor spaces, including grass playing fields, a wetlands area, nature trail and habitat area.

“When we move, we will welcome five new classes, as well as more children who we can deliver individualised support,” said James.

"We’re really excited to begin this new chapter.”

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The approach to the new school
An impression of how the new school will look from the air