Special school set to become an academy

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A SCHOOL, which has unveiled a new state of the art facility, is set to make history when it becomes an academy.

Priory School, in Bury St Edmunds, is one of the first special schools in the country to be granted academy status and is due to make the move in September – pending funding arrangements.

Academies receive funding directly from the Government and are independent of local authority control.

Headteacher Roger Mckenzie said: “It’s partly about the autonomy but also securing the long-term future of the school and for the children, who have complex learning difficulties.

“It’s the first time special s,chools can become academies and funding is due to be agreed hopefully within the next few weeks.”

The plan was announced at the official launch of the school’s Skills Centre, which features two workshop areas, a large food studies facility and conference room.

It was unveiled by Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley, who has supported the school for many years and chairs an annual Question Time event with students.

The facility will be used by Priory pupils as well as students from local schools for Foundation Learning courses. It is also available to organisations looking for training or meeting space.

Already West Suffolk College has taken advantage of the centre for painting and decorating training and a bike maintenance workshop and a recycling social enterprise project is due to open in the autumn.

The building, which cost less than £250,000, was designed by John Stebbing Architects and constructed by Moore and Stone Carpentry and Building, in Bury.

It was put together over five months using sustainable materials including a timber frame insulated with recycled newspaper and bank notes and has a low carbon footprint. Pupils were able to follow the building’s construction and played a key role in its development.

Mr Mckenzie said: “We’ve had lots of support from various people who have given time and commitment to get it up and running. It’s been a real community effort. I do appreciate the support David Ruffley has personally given to this school.”

Mr Ruffley added: “What moves me every time I come here is the dignity for the way the students here are treated and it was really a privilege to open the building.”