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Work starts on new Okehampton special school

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Work on a new £10.7 million school for children with special needs in West Devon will be officially launched next week.

The new school on the Okehampton East Business Park will cater for up to 100 primary and secondary pupils with social, emotional and mental health difficulties and on the autism spectrum.

The first ground for the new school will be broken by the chairman of Devon County Council, Jeff Trail, at noon on December 15.

The school will be run by the Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust, which also runs Okehampton, Tavistock and Holsworthy Colleges and a number of primary schools in the area.

The new building is expected to be completed in the spring of 2023 but the school will open to its first pupils in September 2022 using temporary accommodation.

It is part of a £22 million programme by Devon County Council to provide 300 extra places for vulnerable children with special needs across the county.

That’s on top of the 300 places which have been provided in new special schools in Tiverton and Newton Abbot and by expanding schools in Exeter and North Devon.

Presently pupils from the wider Okehampton area who need special education often have to travel to North Devon or Exeter.

Devon County Council’s Cabinet member for schools, Andrew Leadbetter, said:

“Devon supports a higher than average number of children with special needs in our mainstream schools. But some of the most vulnerable children need to be educated in a special school.

“Our paramount concern is obviously to provide the best possible education and care for them. That’s why we are expanding the number of places we have available for children with special needs so they can be educated close to their homes and communities.”

Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust Chief Executive, Dan Morrow, said: “The new free school will have a positive impact, not just on the learners and young people who access it, but the schools and communities from which they are drawn.

“We’re excited to get this process underway and continue to expand our family of schools.”

Director at contractors Willmott Dixon, Rob Woolcock, said:

“Working with Devon County Council, we are delighted to have broken ground at Okehampton SEMH school. 

“We are committed to delivering the highest quality facilities for children with the most complex needs and this new school will enable them to receive support in their development within their local community. 

“We have significant experience in delivering SEMH projects across the region and the construction of the new Okehampton SEMH school will provide the pupils with a safe, robust and sustainable environment in which to learn and thrive.”