Chapel Road School in Attleborough eyes up new site

After a rollercoaster year of funding letdowns, a 30-year campaign to rebuild Attleborough's oversubscribed special school is back on track as a potential new site is identified.

Chapel Road School, which teaches children aged from three to 19 with complex education needs, is due to enter discussions about acquiring land next to Wymondham College for a new building.

The 50-year-old school came the closest it had ever been to gaining funds for a long-awaited rebuild last year when it was placed on the Labour government's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, but hopes were dashed in July when the scheme was shelved.

Since then headteacher Karin Heap has invited the community to join staff in taking a grasp of the school's future themselves and have set about looking at different funding options, alternative sites and exploring how the new building could benefit residents as well as children with help from local social enterprise expert Robert Ashton.

With support from Norfolk County Council, teachers and governors have whittled down the number of possible new locations to three with the site next to the college being the favoured choice.

Funding for the land and drawing up plans is still to be finalised, but Mrs Heap said she was 'excited' at what had been achieved so far.

She said: 'The BSF is finished – that's a closed door. Do we wait for another 20 years for something else to come up? No, we have to think about the education for these children. So we have done something ourselves. Doing nothing is not an option.'

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At the moment the school can only take up to 63 pupils but has scores of parents knocking at its door wanting their children to be enrolled.

As children's needs become more complex, there is not enough space for their specialist equipment or rooms for teachers to provide some elements of the required curriculum leading to some pupils being transported daily to other schools in Attleborough, Wymondham and Old Buckenham.

Although a suitable site could not be found in Attleborough, the area next to Wymondham College could provide a modern school with space for up to 110 pupils and a small residential unit allowing some children to board and receive respite care.

The move, which is backed by college principle Melvyn Roffe, would expand the partnership which already exists between the two schools giving Chapel Road pupils access to science facilities and more mainstream lessons, while providing staff with maintenance and boarding support.

Mr Roffe added: 'A lot of our students already work with Chapel Road students on a regular basis and one of our staff is on the governing body so that makes things easier. It would provide a very valuable experience for our students as well as Chapel Road students.'

Local groups and organisations, such as the Alzheimer's Society, have also expressed an interest in using the building outside of school hours, said Mr Ashton, who has been encouraging people to submit ideas on how new facilities could be utilised by other sectors of the community.

He said: 'What else could a new school do? How can it generate income as well as provide education? Being more a community school is good for the youngsters, it encourages more inclusion.'