Sunderland special school launches new outdoor common room

Portland Academy pupils Maddison Devlin and Natalie Smith planting flowers.
Portland Academy pupils Maddison Devlin and Natalie Smith planting flowers.

Teeangers at a Sunderland school have unveiled their new outdoor area and common room.

Thanks to help from the community the young people at Portland Academy sixth form are now able to grow and sell crops of their own.

The atmosphere out there is amazing at break times

Ben Atkinson

Last year the school, which caters for children and young adults with a range of special needs, appealed to the public to help create an outdoor area where the older ones could enjoy some independence.

Ben Atkinson, a sixth form support worker at the Weymouth Road school, said thanks to the support of the community they were deligted to officially open the area with a garden party.

He said: “Students of the sixth form, new students coming from Year 11 into the sixth form and their parents attended the party to officially open the new garden. It was a perfect opportunity for the new sixth formers to have a look round.”

Ben said he wants to thank everyone who has helped transfrom the area with their donations and time and work on it.

He said: “It has been amazing to watch the young people explore the new outside space, they were a little unsure at first, but now that they have got used to it the atmosphere out there is amazing at break times.

“The students look so happy and enjoy games of swing ball, badminton, carpet boules and skittles.

“The new door and the garden have improved the department so much its hard to explain, it has broadened our horizons and has improved the lives of our young people, they have some freedom to be young adults.”

A door was fitted to access the outdoor space and then work began including getting donations of flag stones from builders Jewsons and James Burrell.

He said the school was then overwhelmed by a donation of £3,000 from a nearby ladies’ darts and domino team and with this the young people were able to buy a boot shed, a tool shed and five large picnic benches made by students of North East Autism Society.

They also bought garden tools and equipment.

Ben said the new raised beds in the allotment area which will be filled with soil in September ready to start a new crop of plants and vegetables with the new cohort of sixth form students.

Ben said: “The common room is getting overhauled during the holidays with a modern grey kitchen, new flooring, decorating and all new black appliances.

“I consulted the students on the design and layout and they are super excited to see the new common room in September.

“This is all part of a vision to make our sixth form up to date and relevant for our 16 - 19 year old students, we are trying to break away from the secondary school feel to be more like a sixth from college.”