Academy chain awarded contract for new Ipswich school due to open by 2022
A major academy chain which already manages some of Suffolk’s biggest primaries and secondaries has been awarded the multi-million pound contract to run a brand new Ipswich school when it opens in 2022.
Along with Suffolk County Council, the Paradigm Trust has been given the go-ahead by the Department for Education to run the state of the art new unit, in Woodbridge Road, for 60 young people with speech and language difficulties.
The modern two-storey building, currently being designed by architects and subject to planning permission, is designed to tackle a long-running shortage of special educational needs places in the county.
The new free school will boast spacious classrooms and break out areas - but, more than that, the Paradigm Trust believes it has the teaching skills and expertise to ensure the new school’s children get the very best start in life.
Bill Holledge, chief executive of the trust - which runs Ipswich Academy and Pipers Vale Academy, amongst others - said the new school provides a “real opportunity to make a difference for the community”.
He added: “It will really help those children achieve their potential and we’re really pleased to be a part of that.
“Paradigm has been working in Ipswich for a number of years and we’ve seen, from a mainstream perspective, that there hasn’t always been the right specialist provision in place.
“This purpose-designed and new building means we can get it absolutely right and fit the needs of the children.
“I know from various years working in schools that there are children who have particular needs around communication and interaction, for whom a busy lunch hall or lots of distractions can be really problematic and prevents them from learning.
“Having this opportunity to work with pupils who have significant needs in purpose-designed accommodation, with a curriculum tailored to their needs, is tremendous.
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“The flip side is, if you don’t get that kind of provision, there’s a risk of under-performance and unhappiness - which can lead to medical and social problems.
“This is about a fair deal for everyone in the community.”
He added: “At Paradigm, we pride ourselves on ensuring all pupils have every opportunity to meet their potential.
“We offer a very high level of expertise in special educational needs within our existing school network, and through our partnership with UK specialist Phoenix School in London.
“This new school will be designed to work as an extension of this, providing more focused support for children learning with communication and interaction needs.”
The school, for pupils aged seven to 16, is part a £45.1million package to create 828 new specialist placements in Suffolk.
That includes new schools in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft, as well as new units attached to mainstream schools.
It also includes the new Sir Bobby Robson School, on the former Holywells High School site.
Mary Evans, the county council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said it would be “an exciting and important element in Suffolk’s programme to transform special educational needs provision in Suffolk”.
She added: “The new school will complement new special schools and specialist units being developed across the county and will mean that, for the first time, children with communication and interaction needs in Ipswich will have bespoke provision in a school available to them in their community.”
The new school had been welcomed by many in the county when the council was successful in the free school bidding process last year, before inviting applications from sponsors.
The Suffolk Parent Carer Network said the school “can only be a positive step towards strengthening Suffolk’s local offer for some of our most vulnerable learners”, while county council Labour education spokesman Jack Abbott saying the places are “desperately needed to start tackling the crisis of SEND provision in Suffolk”.
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