Parents of pupils at a Mansfield special school have been given a tour of its new building to show them the facilities awaiting their children - and put their minds at rest.
Around 20 parents whose children attend Stubbin Wood School in Langwith Junction have been shown around the school’s new home, a £27m building in Common Lane, Shirebrook, which it will share with Shirebrook Academy from next year.
The building, which is three times the size of its current site, is one of only a small number of examples in the UK of where a special school is co-located with a mainstream school.
Among the features shown to parents was the school’s 1.4m-deep hydrotherapy pool, which, while currently still be built, will eventually be equipped with hoists, purpose-built changing facilities, lights and a £30,000 sound and vision system which will project images onto a watery mist to create shapes.
They were also shown rooms destined to become music, sound and physiotherapy suites, sensory rooms and classrooms, as well as the wide corridors and enclosed outdoor play areas. The tour also visited the living areas, which will have hobs, ovens and work surfaces which can be raised and lowered to enable pupils in wheelchairs to use them.
The building has been designed so that the two schools can remain separate, with different front entrances and internal access between the two schools controlled by swipe card-operated doors.
While Stubbin Wood’s secondary pupils will use some of the Academy’s teaching facilities, the majority of the students’ learning, eating and playing will take place in their own exclusive areas.
However, there is scope for Stubbin Wood pupils to mingle with students in the Academy’s side of the building, by joining them for lunch or using their break-out zones.
Head teacher Lee Floyd, who led two hour-long tours last week, said parents at the 133-pupil school were interested in having a look round but also wanted to find out more about the contact their children would have with the 700 pupils at the Academy.
There have been concerns raised, he said, about how the two sets of pupils would interact and the possible problems that might raise.
He said: “Of course, the building is still taking shape and there is no furniture or facilities to look at, but the visits have been a great way to show parents just how big and exciting the project is.
“It was also extremely useful for us to explain just how the two schools will co-exist. Understandably, some of our parents are anxious about the day-to-day interaction between the pupils, so we were at pains to point out that their children can stay totally in our side of the building if they wish.
“Nobody has put two schools together like this before but we sincerely hope that as time goes by the pupils will enjoy mingling in those areas designated for joint use. The new building offers our pupils an opportunity to live and work closely with their mainstream peers, which we feel is an important aspect in their preparations for leaving school.”
One of the parents on the tour, Tracey Nixon, has two children at Stubbin Wood, Jake (13) and 12-year-old Joshua Ward.
She said: “Both our boys were at mainstream schools and both were bullied, so I was worried about what it would be like for them with Stubbin Wood sharing with the Academy.
“I feel better knowing that all the kids won’t be mixing together unless anyone wants to and seeing how it won’t be just a case of people walking easily in between the schools has helped.”
Fellow parent Andrew Eaton, whose daughter, Skye (10), also goes to the school, said: “It’s good to know that it’s the parent’s and the child’s choice about integrating with other pupils.
“Skye can’t wait to move to the new school and there are certainly a lot more facilities there than at the current school.”
Teaching staff from both schools will share the same staff room and admin staff will work side-by-side. Pupils have already held a series of getting-to-know-you events and a programme of joint activities and visits will continue in the new school year.
Mr Floyd also explained that Shirebrook Academy will move into the building two weeks earlier than Stubbin Wood next Spring and Academy pupils will take their lunches at different times as everyone gets used to their new home.
Lunch times will eventually be brought together over a period of time and in future pupils will be encouraged to eat their meals together, if they want to.
Julie Bloor, principal at Shirebrook Academy, said: “We are all looking forward to moving into the new building, which has been planned so that Stubbin Wood’s students will have a distinct school but will have the option of coming into the Academy if they want to.
“Both sets of students have already taken part in joint activities, including a joint sports day. Every time our pupils have worked with Stubbin Wood’s pupils they have been supportive and caring and all of the events have been a great success.”