A BRAND new purpose-built school for children with special educational needs is now officially open in Kidderminster.

Unity Academy, off Hurcott Road, is a state-of-the-art Alternative Provision (AP) primary school providing support for up to 60 pupils and outreach services for social, emotional and mental health needs in local schools.

AP schools provide education and support for children who are not able to attend a mainstream school due to reasons including illness, behaviour or exclusion.

The school is located at the former Sladen Middle School site and was opened by Professor Barry Carpenter CBE, OBE, international education specialist, and Kate Brunt, CEO of The Rivers CofE Academy Trust earlier this week.

Kate Brunt said: “Sadly the premises that our most vulnerable pupils are often educated in are worse than mainstream settings.

"Unity Academy is a fantastic building and outdoor space marking the beginning of an exciting journey for the most vulnerable pupils in the Wyre Forest and Worcestershire area”.

“Rather than Alternative Provision I see Unity Academy as an Appropriate Provision, a provision to shape the future and empower our pupils to be able to return to the mainstream settings or the appropriate setting they need”.

“Pupils attending Unity Academy will have become disengaged with school for a number of reasons and it is our role to re-engage them through our Rivers Curriculum and fantastic teaching".

Kidderminster Shuttle: Staff members at the grand openingStaff members at the grand opening (Image: Unity Academy)

She thanked the organisations who contributed to the realisation of the school, particularly the Department for Education, Worcestershire Children First, who put the initial bid in for the new school, Portakabin who manufactured and built the school and the educators and support staff.

She then welcomed Professor Barry Carpenter to open the school.

Based in Chaddesley Corbett, Professor Barry Carpenter CBE, has been awarded an OBE and CBE by the Queen for services to children with special needs and is the Professor in Mental Health in Education at Oxford Brookes University.

He said: “It is a great honour to open Unity Academy as this is my home patch.”

“This is going to be a stopping point, a signpost for many children on their educational journey. The one route that they were being offered may not have helped them achieve the goal of being a successful, efficient, effective learner, they need to go a different route, but the goal remains the same. There should be no sense of shame or lost purpose, instead, this is recognition that we all travel a different route, but we can all get to the same destination”.

“The quest, mission and purpose of an educational establishment like Unity Academy is to re-engage children to be active learners, not peripheral learners watching the learning of others, children who can own their own learning and attainment”.

After a presentation, they were joined to cut the ribbon to officially open the school, alongside Unity Academy headteacher Kuldip Berdesha, director of children’s services at Worcestershire Children’s First (WCF) Tina Russell and Portakabin contract manager Andrew Catherall.

Invited guests, which included members of Worcestershire Children’s First (WCF) and Portakabin, headteachers from local Wyre Forest schools, local residents and neighbours and Old Sladonians, were then welcomed to tour the new school.

Unity Academy will open its doors to pupils on Monday, September 11 with 18 primary school-aged children starting the term and being welcomed by 12 members of staff.