A new primary school has opened in Twickenham for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) as part of an effort to improve the area’s provisions for children with speech, language and communication needs.
Capella House, a free school for children with special educational needs from ages 4-16, now has a primary school centre at Amyand House, where it will offer specialist facilities for up to 28 pupils.
Amyand House was leased by Richmond Council, with refurbishment costs funded by the Department for Education.
Councillor Penny Frost, Chair of the council’s Education and Children’s Service Committee said: “There is an increased recognition of the need to ensure that young people who have speech, learning and communication difficulties are being properly managed within the education system.
“I think parents and teachers would agree that this is a key gap in the borough’s local offering and it is one that we are very keen to fill.”
There has been difficulty in providing specialist schools in the borough due to challenges in finding a big enough location that would also not be too far a commute for the children.
Frost noted that the location of the new primary school at Amyand House would help due to its centrality in Twickenham.
She added that its proximity to other schools in the area, such as St Mary’s Primary School, would give children at Amyand House the opportunity to have shared play and visits with those from mainstream primary schools.
Dominic Sunderland, Headteacher of Capella House, said: “It is great to have such a fantastic building that has been carefully designed and planned to enable us to deliver the specialist provision that our pupils deserve.
“It is already clear that having such an environment has enabled both staff and pupils to make a positive start to the school year.”
With the increased demand for specialist schools, Frost added that, where possible, Richmond Council would seek to improve its offerings for children with special educational needs and disabilities.
She said: “We are always looking to see where we can expand the provisions that we’re making.
“This is becoming a very key area that is emerging and it’s been really brought into focus by the effects of the pandemic and the lockdown.”
Another school situated at the Barnes Hospital site has already been approved.
“It is not moving as fast as we would like it to because the need is now, not in a couple of years down the line, but that will be the next area,” Frost added.