A New Forest special school has been able to increase its capacity to meet demand for places using funding from Hampshire County Council.
Funding of £940,000 for new buildings and additional car park spaces at Oak Lodge School, Dibden Purlieu, was approved by the County Council in January, work began in June, and the modular building, known as Acorns, opened in time to welcome additional pupils for the start of the 2018/9 school year.
Councillor Stephen Reid, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Education and Skills, Human Resources and Performance, joined the County Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Keith Mans for a visit to the new block.
Councillor Reid said: “Oak Lodge is an inspiring school that achieves positive outcomes for its pupils by treating each of them as individuals and recognising their differing needs. However, a growing population and increased demand for specialist places meant the school needed to grow. I am very pleased that we have been able to provide this swiftly and effectively while maintaining the Oak Lodge character.”
Councillor Keith Mans added: “We have seen first-hand today how proud the pupils are of their school and its new facilities, and how the school works closely with its neighbour Applemore College to benefit both school communities. As well as providing a tailored academic curriculum that caters for a wide variety of needs and abilities, the life skills taught at Oak Lodge equip some of our most vulnerable young people with a level of confidence and independence that will help them transition into adult life, so the county council’s investment is money well spent.”
The new four classroom block, constructed offsite, includes four classrooms, each with smaller “nest” areas for quiet time, together with toilets, a staff room and a kitchen and life skills area. A new canopy links the new classroom block with the main school, and a dedicated outside space has proved popular at break times. New parking spaces have also been created.
Sharon Burt, Head Teacher at Oak Lodge School, welcomed the visitors to the school and explained how pupils with differing cognitive abilities could benefit from a range of learning environments within the school’s classes to suit their needs. She said: “Pupils are now being placed at Oak Lodge School with increasingly complex emotional/mental health needs associated with Autism. Our team are very skilled in tailoring the breadth and diversity of the curriculum, working closely with our partners and parents, to cater for each and every student to improve their well-being, so they enjoy and achieve as they become well prepared for adulthood.
“The additional building, customised to the needs of students, has enabled the school to provide more space for personalised learning and to further extend our specialism in the Arts as a medium for developing pupils’ communication, social and independence skills, enabling students to build their self-confidence and self-esteem.”