Work under way on £9.3m special school

September 29 2020

WORK has started on a new £9.3 million school at the site of the former Soundwell College.

Local councillors joined representatives of Soundwell Academy, Learn@ Multi Academy Trust, South Gloucestershire Council, B&NES, Interserve and St Stephen's Church at the site of the new school

Soundwell Academy has also started teaching its first pupils on a temporary site, ahead of the planned opening of the new free school next year.

Operated by the Learn@ Multi-Academy Trust, Soundwell Academy will eventually offer 136 places to children aged from five to 18 with a combination of social, emotional, mental health or speech, language and communication needs.

It will serve children from across South Gloucestershire, Bristol and Bath & North East Somerset.

The first 28 pupils started lessons in temporary accommodation at Patchway Community School at the beginning of September. Numbers are set to rise to 88 when the new school opens at Soundwell from September 2021.

Learn@ Multi-Academy Trust, which runs the Knowle DGE Academy in Knowle West, has been working with the three councils and the Department for Education on the school, which will provide weekday overnight support and accommodation in a respite unit for up to 12 pupils and a 20-place sixth form.

The former Soundwell College is being transformed, with some old buildings demolished and others refurbished to create a modern school, which will include vocational areas for engineering, vehicle workshop, hair and beauty, hospitality and catering training.

By the time it is fully open in 2023 the school is expected to employ up to 80 staff across teaching, administration, technical support, catering and maintenance.

Learn@ Multi-Academy Trust chief executive Peter Evans said: "Our new school is modelled on Knowle DGE Academy, which has an excellent track record in providing tailored learning for children with a variety of complex needs. Too often we are turning families away as we do not have enough places to offer.

“Many of the young people we see have not had the best start at school for reasons that are not their fault – we aim to turn this around for them and will continue to work closely with primary and secondary schools for early planning and referrals.”

The new school is being built by Interserve Construction with DKA Architects, structural engineers Clarke Bond, and Silcock Dawson, which will provide maintenance and engineering support.