New Particular Training Wants Faculty to open in Eastbourne – William Witney, The Lindfield Faculty.

Shown Is An Image Of What The Summerdown Is Planned To Look Like.

Having been a student at both a mainstream and SEN school, I was excited to hear of the construction of a new school for children with additional needs in the Eastbourne area.

After hearing this news, and wanting to know more about this project, I was fortunate enough to arrange an interview with the chair of governors from the Southfield trust, Margaret Neil.

Please see below a transcript detailing the interview.

Questions included; an approximate opening date for students, the goals for the school, what ages will be able to attend the summerdown, how many students can attend, and how this school will keep the children under its care safe.

When asked “Could you tell us a bit more about the summer down project?”, Mrs Neil said “when we were an academy trust, we felt very strongly that there was a need for extra provision, and so in 2016 we were supported by east Sussex in a bid to build a free school, with only 23 out of around 200 bids being accepted. it’s been a long process, but coming today and seeing the building taking shape is something we’ve had in our imaginations for years and years, so seeing it become a reality is just so wonderful”

when asked “were there any challenges you faced early on in the project?”, Mrs Neil had this to say. “As with all building projects, you have to find the land, and the piece of land we have is ideal in our view, because it sits so centrally with where our other schools are, so it wasn’t somewhere miles and miles away, and because of its position in relation to the hospital we felt this would be ideal. When getting the site ready in terms of starting the building was a little bit fraught, with a few issues along the way, so we wished to get started as soon as possible, with getting planning permission and giving those who would be affected a voice to speak up. Happily we got through that phase, and the piece of land provides a wonderful vista out onto the downs, and the space for a really big school.”

When asked “how many special education needs (SEN for short) schools the trust currently managed”, I was given this answer. “Well we currently manage three, with south down being in two sites, the west site for younger children, and the east for older children, from key stage 1 to key stage 2. Then the Lindfield School, from 11-16, which cares for key stage 3 and 4, and is the secondary site. And then there is a school which is on the site near the Turing School, Hazel Court, which has a further education section nearby to East Sussex College Eastbourne. The new school will be the fourth.”

Story continues

When asked “When will the Summer Down school hopefully be open to take on students?”, Mrs Neil responded with “we’ve been waiting and waiting, so we’re going for September of this year, 2022, and there are still issues , so it’s a touchy point.”

When asked “What would you say to someone considering SEN education for their child?”, Mrs Neil said “I’ve always thought, because in my life I’ve been a teacher and a head teacher, I’ve always had a specialist interest in SEN needs, and I think that SEN schools provide tailored and appropriate education for students. There is an argument to say that schools should be inclusive, but I feel very strongly that the quality of the provisions in SEN schools, plus the exceptional skills and training of the staff, make it a very desirable learning environment for those who need it. ”

When asked “what ages will the summerdown cater for”, Mrs Neil said “well interestingly it’ll be from 3 years of age, all the way up to the age of 16, so from nursery to the end of secondary.” Which looks to be an exciting prospect for children to get the care they need throughout their education.

When asked” What specific needs will the Summerdown School support?”, Mrs Neil responded with “we’re hoping it’ll be a wide range, so we will have pupils with a diagnosis of complex medical needs, and a range of learning disabilities . We’re hoping that the school will provide a really thorough and extensive education for a broad range of students, with one half of the school being designed with hoists etcetera so that non ambulatory students will be able to access everything that any other pupil can access .”

When asked “how many students will be hopefully able to attend the summerdown?”, Mrs responded with “we’re going to start with 52 pupils, and build to 135 over the course of 3 to 5 years, I’m sure that it will fill very quickly.”

When “What are the goals for this new school?” we were not disappointed with the answer. “As you know at the Southdown trust we have a very comprehensive but very specific set of core values, and our aim, our focus is helping all our students to build good relationships, to be independent, to be able to make choices and to thereby fulfill their potential, so that they have a life that is interesting and also safe and well. We want our students to be able to contribute to society, and our greatest wish is to enable them to achieve their potential while with and at every stage in their lives. We hope to a launch pad for their very happy futures.”

our final question was “what measures would be taken to ensure top quality care for every student attending?”, and Mrs Neil’s response went as follows: “well, I don’t like to blow our own trumpet but you understand that we are in the unique position of having three schools which are providing outstanding provision, thanks to our dedicated and caring staff, some of whom may apply for the jobs at this school, but all staff that we appoint will be of a high caliber, and given opportunities to build those skills within the trust. The facilities in the school, the safe space, the hydrotherapy pool, the sensory rooms and therapy suites will again enhance the quality of everything we do for our students. It is going to be state of the art, and quite frankly I think when it opens we’ll all be really thrilled to see our students using it for their education.”

After hearing about many of the aspects of the new school, I am excited to see it reach its completion. However, I am sure it will be a huge benefit to the students who eventually attend the school and their families that support them.


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