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Wanted: Academy sponsor for new special school for "extremely challenging" boys

PUBLISHED: 14:46 04 June 2019 | UPDATED: 18:34 04 June 2019

Alderman Swindell Primary and Nursery School held its last ever summer fete. Pictures: Mick Howes

Alderman Swindell Primary and Nursery School held its last ever summer fete. Pictures: Mick Howes

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A new special school for "high risk" boys in Great Yarmouth is seeking an academy sponsor.

A closing ceremony was held at Alderman Swindell Primary School in Yarmouth. 
Picture: Nick ButcherA closing ceremony was held at Alderman Swindell Primary School in Yarmouth. Picture: Nick Butcher

Norfolk County Council is looking for applicants to run the new free school taking shape at the former Alderman Swindell Primary School in Beresford Road.

The new social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) free school will cater for up to 94 pupils, all boys, aged five to 16, on a day and residential basis.

According to papers seen by this newspaper ahead of a sponsor information event on June 11 the school is set to open in the summer of 2021.

It is described as a provision for pupils who present "regular extreme challenging behaviour" and of "high risk to themselves, their peers and adults."

Defined behaviours include phobias, anxiety states and depression; stealing, defiance, fire-setting, aggression, violence to themselves, and antisocial behaviour.

Children could also suffer with attachment or trauma disorders, possibly because of abuse and neglect.

Other mental health disorders could include psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and manic-depressive disorder.

The commissioning document adds: "The pupils, particularly those at the older age range, may be at risk of child criminal and/or sexual exploitation and/or be potential or actual young offenders; they may present with harmful sexual behaviour.

"Pupils will have significant barriers to learning and will be at risk of disengagement from school and be at high risk of entering the NEET (not in education, employment or training) group at post-16.

"The pupils will be generally of average cognitive ability and would be able to access a mainstream taught curriculum.

"However, the pupils may have experienced disruption to their educational history and are therefore likely to have gaps in their learning."

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Applicants will need "a strong educational vision."

The £12m building costs of the new school, which will be mix of refurbishment and new units, will be met by the local authority which is also at the early stages of looking at putting a children's home on the site.

One of the key aims of the new school is to help pupils to attend their most local school, reducing travel times and costs, and the need for out-of-county placements.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services, said: "This school will be for children with social, emotional and health difficulties, who are from the Great Yarmouth area.

"It is important that they attend a good school, in their local community and do not have to travel long distances to school which only exacerbates their difficulties.

"Norfolk has a brilliant track record of providing these kind of schools, with Eaton Hall in Norwich providing outstanding education for its pupils.

"We're investing £120m in new specialist provision to transform learning for children with special educational needs and disabilities in Norfolk.

"The new school in Great Yarmouth will provide much needed places for children in the east of the county."

Mick Castle, whose county council ward includes the school, said: "It will be a great step forward in provision for local families so I am delighted."

Alderman Swindell closed last summer despite a long campaign - including protest marches and a legal challenge - to keep it open.

It had been teaching local children for almost 80 years.

Instead some £7m is being invested in nearby North Denes Primary School with work due to start on July 1.

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