Schools catering for autistic children to open in Oxfordshire

Herald Series: Pupils Rees Groombridge and, right, Asa Barakzai, who attend the Hassocks school for autistic children in West Sussex, are filmed for a promotional video about the new school near Oxford		       Picture: OX66116 Antony Moore Buy this photo Pupils Rees Groombridge and, right, Asa Barakzai, who attend the Hassocks school for autistic children in West Sussex, are filmed for a promotional video about the new school near Oxford Picture: OX66116 Antony Moore

SCHOOLS specifically for children with autism are set to open in Oxfordshire at the start of the next academic year.

One will be on the site of former convent Begbroke Priory, north of Oxford, from September and will be run by charity LVS.

A second school is set to open in the same month in Barton and will be run by MacIntyre Academies.

It is due to open on the former Ormerod School site in Waynflete Road.

The school in Begbroke is hoping to teach up to 70 students between the ages of 11 and 19, but will initially take 16 children next year.

LVS already runs schools in Hassocks, West Sussex, specifically for children with autism and Asperger syndrome, and another day and boarding school in Ascot, Berkshire.

MacIntyre Academies, based in Milton Keynes, started work on its new school at the end of last year, and was given a £4.5m grant by the county council to set up.

Currently county children with autism can be taught in schools up to 200 miles away, as Oxfordshire does not have a school that can specifically look after their needs.

Sarah Sherwood, LVS director of special education needs, said it was important autistic pupils were given the best education in the right surroundings for them.

She said: “One of the benefits (of its new school) is that they will be taught in small classes of eight with two teachers.

“Children with autism can find it difficult at traditional schools, as the surroundings can make them quite anxious.

“It can be incredibly difficult to learn when lessons are crowded, the school canteen is crowded, and it will end up leading to a rise in anxiety.”

Asa Barakzai, a 12-year-old pupil at the LVS school in Hassocks, visited the Begbroke site on Monday.

He and fellow pupil Rees Groombridge were taking part in a film about the charity for prospective parents, which will be used on its website.

He said: “I feel more confident, I just feel a lot more secure and happier. Ever since I’ve come here it sparked my creativity in making stuff for filming.”

The school will offer either day or week-long residence for pupils.

Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley said: “If we need this school then we will of course use it.

“We hope it will be properly staffed and properly run and if that is the case then we will see if we will use it. We would always welcome another facility in the county.

“We haven’t had a school like this here so having two is good.

“The important thing other than the educational needs is that a school like this offers good respite so families, carers and the children can have some spare time.”

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