More pupils will be supported to remain or return to schools within their communities says Council, thanks to a huge investment in specialist provision for some of Swansea’s most vulnerable young people.
Swansea Council is transforming the support it provides to pupils either outside or at risk of leaving mainstream education.
Services that are currently spread over four different locations in the city are being brought together under one roof at the new £9.64m Maes Derw development in Cockett which is about to open its doors.
As well as providing a new home to the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), the Home Tuition team and Behaviour Support team, it also includes a new Halfway House.
Contractors have worked safely throughout the coronavirus pandemic to complete the development which headteacher Amanda Taylor said would also enable the PRU to offer a broader curriculum and provide more nurture based opportunities for pupils of all ages.
Since its inception Ms Taylor and her team, along with the young people who attend the service, have been involved in the planning and pupils even came up with the name Maes Derw, which translates to Oakfield.
Ms Taylor said: “Our pupils have been at the front and centre of all the decisions being made for their new school and when we have asked for their opinion, many of them have been engaged, forthcoming and have come up with some great ideas
“A case in point is many of our pupils struggle with mental health issues and anxiety so we wanted part of the building to look out on to the greenery and fields and it does just that.
“It has multiple classrooms, and additional rooms of differing sizes, which will allow us to cater for larger and smaller size groups. We also have spaces specifically for more specialised curriculum activities, such as design technology and food technology.
“It will further help us to shape the lives of our pupils by having facilities that cater to their individual needs. This will support us to help them back in to mainstream schooling or support their future employment aspirations and opportunities.
“The school I have dreamt about for our pupils is nearly here and I am incredibly grateful to and proud of everyone who has been involved.”
The investment has been jointly funded by Swansea Council and the Welsh Government under the 21st Century Schools and Colleges programme, which is the biggest ever investment in school infrastructure Swansea has ever seen.
The council’s Cabinet Member for Education Improvement, Learning and Skills, Jennifer Raynor, said: “When we first discussed revamping and improving the PRU we wanted the very best for the service because many of the pupils have complex social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. If their needs are not fully addressed then their chances of future employment and wellbeing are greatly reduced.
“Maes Derw is a unique type of school where pupils will be supported to ensure that, wherever possible, they are able to return to access education in the schools within their own communities.
“It will also allow Amanda and her team to offer a much wider curriculum alongside vocational training and give pupils far greater opportunities.
“I would like to thank our partners in Welsh Government for sharing and supporting our ambition and the contractors Kier for delivering this first class facility.”
Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “I am delighted that our 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme is supporting the delivery of a new Pupil Referral Unit in Swansea through the funding of the Maes Derw development.
“It is so important that we give vulnerable learners of all ages the opportunity to learn in a modern and aspiring environment, specifically designed to meet their individual learning and support needs.
“This investment will support the future well-being of these pupils and I am thrilled that they have been involved in the planning of their brand new school.”
Jason Taylor operations director Kier Regional building Western & Wales, states: “Collaboration has been at the heart of this project and working together with Swansea Council, Amanda and her team as well as its pupils. The new building provides modern, first-class learning facilities.
“Over the duration of the project, we have shared key milestones and held careers talks with the pupils and the hoardings around the site have featured artwork designed by them. As we neared completion, we provided virtual tours using Matterport technology so the staff and pupils could see their new school.”
(All images & videos: Swansea Council)