Once struggling school adds to its remarkable story

CREDIT: This story was first seen on GloucestershireLive

The latest impressive development at a Tewkesbury school that refused to die has been completed, GloucestershireLive reports.

A sixth form has been built at Alderman Knight School for the first time.

Costing £1.9m, it took just over a year to build and is being used by pupils who previously would have left the school once they reached the age of 16.

There are 16 children being taught in the facility, which is officially called a Post 16 Centre, although head teacher Clare Steel said it would be able to take more pupils than that if needed in the future.

While very much an Alderman Knight School development, having been built just a few yards from the main school, special needs pupils are being referred there from all over the county.

It follows Gloucestershire County Council having decided the need for such a facility was there.

Mrs Steel said it meant post-16 pupils from Alderman Knight who would not feel comfortable in a mainstream sixth form or college would be able to continue their education at the school.

She said: “The building is so beautiful. It’s everything we hoped it would be.

“The aim is to build up the confidence for the pupils to get back into a more mainstream environment, such as college or training. It’s like a bridging setting for them.

“The vision for the post-16 centre was something that became clear when I came here 11 years ago.”

The opening of the sixth form is the latest upward turn in the remarkable story of the special school, which bounced back after nearly closing in the 2000s. It was nearly shut down between 2004 and 2006 by the county council, as part of a plan to integrate children with moderate learning difficulties into mainstream education.

But, partly due to a campaign from those bitterly opposed to the move, the authority changed its mind.

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And since then the school has been transformed. In 2013, it celebrated the completion of a £5.7m revamp.

Now staff and pupils are rejoicing at the new sixth form having been added to the Ashchurch Road site, which is next to Tewkesbury School.

Facilities include an ICT suite, a large common room, three classroom spaces and break-out rooms for smaller groups. There is also a small gymnasium.

Mrs Steel added: “I’m absolutely thrilled to bits. It’s an incredible building. It complements the main building. Anybody can see that it’s one school but there are subtle differences, in terms of colour and furniture that make it a much more adult place.”

Some youngsters are expected to stay in the sixth form until they are 19, while it is thought others may move on after a shorter period.

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