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New £12 million Oxford SEND school handed over to academy trust

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are about to benefit from a new £12 million school in the Blackbird Leys area of Oxford.  

Oxfordshire County Council has worked closely with The Gallery Trust in delivering the new buildings, which were handed over to Orion Academy this week. The academy forms part of the council’s commitment to provide more school places for children with special educational needs.

The specialist academy will teach students aged 11 to 18 years, who have a range of additional needs, including autistic spectrum condition, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, speech and language difficulties, and specific and moderate cognition and learning needs.

It will become the sixth SEND school in Oxfordshire operated by The Gallery Trust, a special multi-academy trust based in Oxfordshire. The development, built by Morgan Sindall Construction, is on the site of the former Northfield School on Knights Road.

Councillor Liz Brighouse, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Youth Services, said: “This is a very significant moment, demonstrating our commitment to every child and young person in the county. I’m confident Orion School pupils will receive the very best education, shaped for their individual needs, and in a first-class teaching environment.”

Councillor Calum Miller, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “Congratulations to everyone involved in this exciting project. It's been a huge effort to deliver it on time despite the pandemic. There has been great teamwork behind the shared goal of building this specialist learning environment to ensure every pupil gets the very best start in life.”

The new school consists of a main single-storey 2,700 square metre building, housing 14 classrooms. In addition to specialist rooms for science, art, music and design, there is a dedicated space for life skills; where pupils can practice cooking and other domestic tasks to give them independent living skills.

A space in the middle of the school, called The Bridge, will act as a therapeutic base and social area. There is also a large dining area and separate games hall, with an attached gym.

Following completion of the new building, the old structure will be demolished. In its place will be built an all-weather Sport England compliant five-a-side pitch, MUGA (multi-use games area) tarmac court, and a grass pitch with running track. This second phase will be completed in 2022.

Kay Willett, Chief Executive Officer of The Gallery Trust, said: “I am delighted the children are going to benefit from this exceptional environment and access resources they deserve. It is a wonderful building, and it will also benefit the local community.

“We are very grateful to everyone who has supported this build and in particular the attention given to the development of the estates strategy in Oxfordshire for children with special needs.”

Lynne Smith, Head Teacher of Orion Academy, said: “This is a very important moment in time for the students and staff at Orion Academy. We are delighted to welcome our school community into a purpose built, state of the art building where we believe our students will flourish and access a broad range of exciting and innovative learning opportunities. We are also proud to open our school to the local community in the future, so they are able to enjoy our sporting facilities.”

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