School for children with complex needs to increase its learning

School for children with complex needs to increase its learning

22nd September 2015


A RENOWNED school is hoping to expand to meet an ever-increasing demand from parents who recognise its unique approach in helping children with complex needs.

Marchbank Free School has launched a four-week consultation on plans to increase its specialist learning provision from the current 30 pupils to 42, aged five to 11.

The school provides much-needed help across the North to children with social, emotional and mental health issues and associated difficulties.

Based in a refurbished building at Mowden Hall, Darlington, it recently won high praise from inspectors who ranked it as good.

Its principal Mandy Southwick also recently attended a special reception at No 10 Downing Street to celebrate the success of the free school programme with Prime Minister David Cameron, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Parliamentary Undersecretary Lord Nash.

Part of the Education Village Academy Trust, Marchbank was launched in 2013 and takes children from Stockton, Darlington, Northallerton, Richmond, Harrogate, Bedale, Boroughbridge and Stokesley.

The school has quickly built a reputation for its work with children with social, emotional and mental health needs and their associated difficulties, catering for students with sensory issues and working closely with children’s occupational therapy service Future Steps.

The consultation, on proposals to increase the number of classes to six and accommodate up to 12 more children, includes two drop-in sessions on September 22 and 29, from 5.30pm to 6.30pm at Marchbank School.

Hosted by the principal and EVAT chief executive Mike Butler, visitors will be able to ask questions and tour the school facilities inside and out.

Parents, carers, staff, local schools, local authorities, the community and other stakeholders are invited to comment on whether the trust should apply to the Department for Education to expand.

EVAT board members and school staff believe the expansion would enable more children to access learning specific to their needs in the local area.

The move would also benefit the school making it more cost-effective, sustainable with better economies of scale and increased opportunities for staff.

Increased capacity would allow Marchbank to offer improved services and support to mainstream schools and the broader community, locally, regionally and nationally, in a more responsive and imaginative way.

Mrs Southwick said: “The expansion plans build on Marchbank’s success so far, recognised by Ofsted as a school that allows pupils to thrive.

“It would allow parents and carers more choice ensuring their child’s needs are met and they are able to benefit from accessing full-time education alongside their peers that is specific to their complex needs.”

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