Published on

7 December 2023

Children with SEND welcomed to new early years centre

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are settling in at the new Addington Early Years Centre after it opened last month, offering a small bespoke learning environment for children from three to eight years old.

A pupil from Addington Early Years Centre playing outside on textured playground

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are settling in at the new Addington Early Years Centre after it opened last month, offering a small bespoke learning environment for children from three to eight years old.

The centre, which is at the site of the old Farley Hill Primary School, is run by Addington Special School, who have a long-standing track record of providing high levels of support and education to students with SEND and have been rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted for the past 15 years, most recently in March this year.

The first phase of the project has seen the centre open to 16 new pupils who are settling well into spaces adapted specifically to cater for their needs by Francis Construction, with different spaces for the children to play, learn and be, including accessible indoor and outdoor classrooms, a reading area, and spaces for children to go to help them regulate.

A group of school staff, children, council staff and councillor smile to the camera as the mayor cuts the ribbon

A bespoke place to learn

Children with SEND can struggle with self-regulation and process information in different ways. They may become more overwhelmed by things such as noise, visuals and light, causing them to feel more anxious and will need extra help to learn how to respond. The centre is designed in muted tones with pops of colour to avoid visual overstimulation, and has spaces such as sensory areas , breakout rooms  out and active zones  so that throughout the day children can use them as needed.

As well as having special spaces, a large team of dedicated staff are on hand to support the children with all their needs, helping them to feel safe and settled, as well as providing whole family support from a family support worker.

Phase two of the centre is expected to be ready for September 2024, which will increase the number of places available to a maximum of 40 and will include three more classrooms, a sand and splash room, a forest school and a medical room where therapists will have a space to work with children.

A child and school staff sit on the floor playing with bricks

A wonderfully welcoming environment

Councillor Prue Bray, executive member for children’s services, said: “It was a pleasure to be invited to the official opening of the new Addington Early Years Centre. We know already that children and young people in their care get a great start in life and so to be able to partner with them on this expansion for the younger children in the borough is a pleasure and a privilege.

“It is a fantastic use of a previous school site, and it is already obvious how the adaptations that have been made to make it a bespoke learning environment are having a big impact on the children attending the centre

“For a lot of the children, this is their first time in a formal education setting, and the staff have provided a wonderfully welcoming environment to help them settle and grow in confidence.”

A child sits on a chair with their arms raised to a colourful parachute held above their head

Getting ready to learn

Sara Attra, headteacher at Addington Special School, added: “We are extremely fortunate to have a new bespoke Early Years Centre for our youngest pupils at Addington School. Starting school for children with SEND can be a very difficult time and the centre has been designed to make this experience as stress free as possible whilst introducing children to a learning environment.”

 “Many of these children will be learning to communicate, learning to play and learning to become independent and our bespoke curriculum has been further enhanced by this new, calm environment surrounded by nature.”

“The first 16 children have settled very well into the centre and we are very excited about the amount of progress they have made so far. It is a fantastic addition to Addington School and we are very much looking forward to the completion of phase two next year with the additional facilities this will bring.”

The mayor bows her head to a child who is enjoying stroking her hair

Transforming SEND services

Addington Early Years Centre is one of the first of many projects underway to transform SEND services in the borough, after Oak Tree Special School opened in Winnersh in September and the Indigo Resource Base at Maiden Erleigh School continued to grow with the completion of the conversion works of the Silverdale Community Centre.

There are plans for more places, with further resource base and SEND units being explored with schools across the borough. Two new SEND schools are also coming to the borough, funded by the Department for Education, and an announcement will be made at the beginning of 2024 on the providers for the two new  schools.

The council is also developing a range of activities, allowing for earlier identification of SEND needs, and increased and more timely access to support for parents and in schools.

A boy sits on the floor of a classroom playing with an activity cube

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