£11million pound school bid moves nearer

AN £11million dream to integrate disabled students with high school pupils will soon be realised.

AN £11million dream to integrate disabled students with high school pupils will soon be realised.

Thomas Wolsey Special School is to relocate next to Thurleston High School in Defoe Road, with construction work expected to start later this month.

Both schools and the wider community have been involved in creating a design that will deliver significant benefits to pupils and provide facilities available to the public.

As well as brand new classrooms, there will be an astroturf pitch, drama studio, music rooms, a recording studio and a swimming pool.

The design has been aimed at maintaining the unique character of Thomas Wolsey School, while at the same time allowing the integration of its pupils into Thurleston.

Nancy McArdle, Thomas Wolsey headteacher, said the relocation would “tick all the boxes” around inclusion and personal learning.

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“Our current building is on a lovely site but it's a 1930s school and it was never purpose-built for students who are wheelchair users,” she said.

“We have been working in partnership with Thurleston High School for years, so to finally be on site will be fantastic.

“It will start to break down the barriers and it will be good for Thurleston High School pupils as well because they are tomorrow's parents.

“Sometimes, our parents have not had any experience of disability until they give birth to their children or there is an accident.

“With school reorganisations it makes sense for our children to be more visible and there will be an opportunity for youngsters to forge friendships.

“We will have proper toilets in the right places, a swimming pool, gym and multi-games area which will benefit Thurleston pupils, too.”

With 50 per cent of Thomas Wolsey's children dependant on technology for mobility, the new building will also feature wider corridors.

The development comes as the government continues to encourage disabled children into more mainstream education.

Special schools have been closing under a Labour policy which aims for integration where possible.

Such closures have sparked protests among parents who believe their children's needs are being well met by the school, while at the same time many parents have fought to get their children into mainstream education.

Meanwhile, learning disabilities charity Mencap has publicly backed the removal of segregation between disabled and able bodied pupils.

Thurleston headteacher, Mike Everett said: “Both Nancy and I had a dream years ago, driven by an educational and philosophical vision and it's fantastic to see it materialise.

“The facilities are going to be excellent and will be the sort we could never have afforded ourselves.

“It's an opportunity for our pupils and staff to mix and exchange experiences.”

Construction work will last for 18 months, with Thomas Wolsey's pupils expected to move in by January 2009.

Should disabled children be properly integrated into mainstream education? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk