The foundations for a £14m school – intended to be a centre of excellence for children and young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – have now been laid, with the project scheduled for completion in January 2012.
Grange School, currently located on Dickensian Road in Rusholme, will move to brand new facilities on Mount Road and Matthews Lane in Gorton, as part of Manchester City Council’s ambition to lead the way in the education of children and young people with ASD through the creation of a pioneering purpose built school and facilities.
The contractor on this project is Willmott Dixon and the architect is Ellis Williams.
The Grange development is part of a wider programme of improvements for young children and adults with ASD across Manchester. The city council recently announced £1.183m funding for a supported housing scheme for 18 young adults with ASD in Levenshulme. Currently a number of young adults with ASD are cared for outside Manchester, but the new scheme will allow them to return to the city to be nearer their families. Grange is part of Manchester’s Building Schools for the Future and Academies programme, one of the largest in the country, with a total investment of £509 million.
The new school has been specifically designed to meet and be sensitive to the needs of children and young people with ASD and has included extensive consultation with parents, teachers, pupils and designers experienced in the ASD field, along with visits to other purpose built schools across the country.
The school, for pupils aged 4 to 19, will have a number of features appropriate to the education of pupils with ASD such as a clear ordered design, non-reflective surfaces, non-flickering lights and good acoustic control. It will almost double its current admission numbers from 80 to 150 and will include nursery, primary, secondary and post 16 provision. The school will also provide separate facilities for more able students.
There will be clear zoning of areas with obvious pointers to identify which activities take place in particular areas and spaces that encourage children to make choices about playing and communicating with others.
Grange Headteacher, Andrew Smith, says: “The new school will be a fabulous facility, not only for our own pupils but also for the city as a whole, as it will allow teachers working with children with ASD in mainstream schools across Manchester to use Grange as a central point for advice, information and support.”
The school will become a hub of the community with out-of-hours use of facilities, including a sports hall and soft play area. Other features include an allotment, a woodland area, sensory rooms, water features, and a multi use games area.
Councillor Sheila Newman, Manchester City Council executive member for children’s services, says: “The expansion and rebuild of Grange is part of the city council’s radical programme and vision to completely transform the way children learn both in mainstream and SEN schools.
“The new school is designed with the needs of children with ASD at the heart of the design. It will be a truly groundbreaking and inspiring school.”
Two houses are also being built on the same site but away from the school and will offer much needed residential provision for children and young people with ASD and their families. One house will offer 10 long term residential places, while the other will provide overnight short break provision for up to 10 children and young people – a first for Manchester.
In a 2002 study commissioned by Manchester Health Authority (CAMHS) and the Joint Commissioning Team for Learning Disability, it was reported that 55% of parents of children with ASD deemed the education service to be particularly unhelpful in its failure to deliver effective support. Higher levels of satisfaction with educational provision were expressed by parents whose child attended a school outside of Manchester and by parents whose child attended a special school ( in particular autism specific schools).
The Grange development is a step forward to ensuring that each child with ASD is given the support that they need and a chance to achieve their true potential in a carefully structured environment that meets their needs.