Dean of Chester, the Venerable Dr Tim Stratford has joined city leaders in celebrating the launch of a new world-class centre of excellence for children with Special Educational Needs in Chester.
Abbey School for Exceptional Children, a day and residential school that caters for children and young persons aged four to 19 years with a diagnosis of autism and/or severe learning difficulties, opened this academic year.
The state-of-the-art school is based in a Grade II* listed building in the grounds of Chester Cathedral that has been transformed following a sensitive refurbishment. Over 200 new jobs are being created by the school, which is staffed by a highly trained multi-disciplinary team.
Employing a holistic approach, which targets learning and development through mutual engagement and participation, Abbey School combines learnings from special education research and best practice to provide an outstanding teaching and learning experience, with the wellbeing of pupils and staff sitting at the heart of the school’s philosophy.
Speaking following a tour of the newly refurbished school building, the Dean said he was proud that the school, which will provide children from across the region and the UK with access to a world-class education, was launching in Chester. He said: “Abbey School for Exceptional Children has an important role to play in improving educational provision for some of our most vulnerable young people and providing them with an enriching and rewarding experience – benefiting families, pupils and the wider community. We’re delighted to have Abbey School based with Chester Cathedral’s grounds and look forward to seeing the school grow and thrive.”
Welcoming the investment in the heart of the city, Andrew Lewis, Chief Executive of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “These new facilities for children and young people are a bold investment in the heart of the city, in one of our best loved city squares, re-purposing historic buildings for an inspiring new social purpose”.
Core to the school’s approach is a strategic research partnership with SEND experts at Bangor University and the University of Warwick – both institutions are globally renowned leaders in the field of SEND educational research and development.
Eventually, Abbey School plans to create an ‘open-source’ model for its research, where other schools and teachers will be able to access its research, and draw on the learnings and findings from ERA within their own educational settings.
Dr Katy Lee, Principal of Abbey School, said: “We’re thrilled to have successfully launched the school and to be offering a truly world-class educational resource for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and autism both across the region and from further afield.
“Abbey School has an important role to play as an exemplar model for SEND education in the UK that will help to shape the wider SEND landscape and influence how we approach and deliver education for some of the most vulnerable children and young people in our society.
“Chester’s leaders and the wider community have really welcomed the school and supported us as we worked to bring this outstanding facility from vision to reality and we’re delighted to be a part of the city, and to have Chester recognised as a location with a nationally relevant SEND offering.”
Other key initiatives being developed by the school include the creation of a new app, which will enable the school to evaluate and ensure the wellbeing of all school users, and help to ensure optimum effectiveness of teaching and high levels of engagement across all year groups.