A school which caters for children and young people with special educational needs will has officially opened this week.
The headteacher, Chris Rue, along with the Leader of South Tyneside Council, Councillor Tracey Dixon, officially cut a ribbon and unveil a plaque to mark the event on Wednesday morning.
Epinay Business and Enterprise School moved into its new home on the site of the former South Shields School earlier this year following an investment by South Tyneside Council of more than £1.9 million.
In line with the Council’s ambition of connecting people to learning, the school has been adapted for its new learners and now houses state-of-the-art facilities, including a rebound therapy room, play therapy room and sensory light areas for children and young people with special educational needs.
Outside, an early years play area features specialist items such as a bug hotel, sand-pit, water-wall, mud kitchen and a climbing wall. The school will also benefit from a woodland walk, a multi-use games area and horticulture facilities such as greenhouses, raised beds and potting sheds for students to access.
Chris Rue, headteacher said: “The re-location of the school from its smaller site in Jarrow means that more children with special education needs can now be taught within South Tyneside, instead of having to travel outside the Borough for their education. The move also means that more children with a greater range of special needs can be taught on the new site.
“Our children are already benefiting significantly from the new education spaces that they have. We are all delighted with our new home and are enjoying giving our children the very best education.”
The additional space on the new site also means that Epinay’s sixth form, which was formerly located on off-site rented premises, now has its own dedicated space at the school for 32 young adults.
Councillor Adam Ellison, Lead Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “The number of children with Education Health and Care Plans in South Tyneside has almost doubled since 2015 so it is fantastic that we have been able to respond to this level of need in such a positive way.
“The Council’s massive investment means that the facilities in this school are outstanding and will help these young people to achieve ever greater things.”
The school’s catering students will prepare food and refreshments to guests at the official opening as part of their NVQ hospitality training.
Councillor Audrey Huntley, Chair of Governors, said: “I’m so pleased that Epinay school has moved to the new site in Nevison Avenue. The development of the site will be truly life changing for our children. The opportunities this move has provided us will ensure that children across South Tyneside are able to access the best education possible for children with SEND needs. We want our children to foster a love of learning – we are ready to listen, ready to learn together.”
Kelly Bushell, from Jarrow, whose daughter, Gracie, has global developmental delay, described the school as “fab.”
She said: “Gracie can find it difficult to control her emotions so having the sensory room is a great help. It is a massive investment from the Council but one that is well worth it.”
Our reporter and presenter Michael Patterson attended the event and spoke with Cllr Tracey Dixon and Headteacher Chris Rue.