Mayor opens Teesside’s first special free school

Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston has described as “trail-blazing” new high-quality temporary facilities for Teesside’s first free school for those with special educational needs.

The mayor officially opened the specially-constructed school accommodation ahead of plans to build a new school, Discovery Special Academy, in Middlesbrough by the 2021-22 academic year.

Middlesbrough Council has agreed the sale of land at Sandy Flatts Lane, Acklam, to the Department of Education for the construction of Discovery Special Academy, one of the Government’s flagship free schools.

Once built, the free school will provide a specialist educational provision for up to 84 children aged 4-11 with complex and significant learning, communication, physical and medical needs.

Part of Tees Valley Education Trust and representing Teesside’s largest primary special school, Discovery will help to meet an increasing demand for special needs facilities within the Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland local authority areas.

Mayor Preston, who was chair of Tees Valley Education Trust’s board when the free school was first applied for, said: “As one of the government’s first free special schools, Discovery is blazing a trail not only for Middlesbrough and Teesside but the whole country.

“For too long, we’ve had a sticking plaster approach, trying to make do as best we could, but Discovery represents a beautiful and ground-breaking solution to help solve a really pressing need for children with a range of complex needs.

“Discovery have some outstanding people who have created a truly uplifting, inspiring environment for the children within the temporary facilities.”

Whilst plans for the new build remain on track, Tees Valley Education Trust say the move into the five temporary classrooms is an “exciting milestone”.

Located on land adjacent to its partner academy, Brambles Primary, on Kedward Avenue in Middlesbrough, the new accommodation will provide education and therapies to 60 primary-age children with complex learning and medical needs.

For the past 12 months, 30 Discovery children have been educated in a former Sure Start building at Brambles, but the five new temporary classrooms mean the school can now accommodate up to 60 pupils.

The specially enhanced provision employs 27 teaching and non-teaching while also hosting daily visits from therapists and health workers

Tees Valley Education Trust has worked collaboratively with the free schools division of the Department for Education, the regional school commissioners’ office and local authority officers in both Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland councils.

Katrina Morley, Tees Valley Education’s CEO, said: “We are incredibly proud to be able to open the temporary accommodation for Discovery Special Academy as an exciting milestone on the way to the permanent build.

“This provision has been purposely designed and built to support the development of the specialist curriculum offer for all of our current and future children, along with their families.

“The staff of the school, trust and all of our partners worked tirelessly throughout the summer in order to get the academy ready for the children and to create a really warm, welcoming environment, inside and out.