Special schools set to expand with new 6th form facilities

Two of Cumbria’s special schools are set to expand with confirmation of a nearly £1m investment from Cumbria County Council.

New 6th Form facilities will be created for Whitehaven’s Mayfield School and Carlisle’s James Rennie School, allowing Mayfield to increase from 197 to 230 places and James Rennie to increase from 159 to 195.

The new facilities are being created away from the existing schools. Mayfield’s new 6th form will occupy St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Cockermouth, which is due to close in August, while in Carlisle St Edmund’s Church on Orton Road will be given new purpose meeting the needs of young people with special educational needs.

Both sites will be leased from the Diocese of Lancaster by Cumbria County Council.

With increasing demand for special school places, the expansions create much needed additional capacity at both schools while providing fantastic new facilities which will help young people reaching the end of their time at school develop and prepare for adult life.

Works are planned to start on both sites soon and are expected to be completed by early 2023. As an interim measure while St Edmund’s is being developed, two temporary classrooms will be installed on the James Rennie site to allow more pupils to attend as soon as possible.

Cllr Sue Sanderson, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet Member for Schools and Education, said:

“I’m delighted we’ve been able to commit this money to develop these new 6th form facilities. It’s so important that we create more space in our special schools and this is an innovative way of doing that. The new 6th forms will provide bespoke facilities for older children to help them prepare for the next steps into adult life and wherever that might take them. I’m excited to see them take shape and certain they will make a huge positive difference to pupil’s lives.”

(l-r) Thomas McDermott (16, Workington), Stephen Chambers (Assistant Head, Mayfield),  John Little (17, Workington), Graham Ansell (6th Form teacher, Mayfield), Aaron Gleeson (16, Workington), Sam Kidd (Headteacher, Mayfield), Sally Senejko (Senior Manager, SEND, Cumbria CC),  Nicky Steels (Headteacher, St Joseph’s), Paul Lovell (Diocese school buildings surveyor), Canon John Watson

(l-r) Emily Kriese (19, Carlisle), Kerry Dunbobbin (Deputy Head, James Rennie), Nathan Moore (18, Carlisle), Paul Braithwaite (health and safety manager for the local parish), Father Norman Johnston, Michael Crowther (Senior Manager, Capital Programmes, Cumbria CC).

Sam Kidd, Headteacher at Mayfield School said:

“This joint venture allows the very best opportunities for the young people of Mayfield. The location is in the centre of a thriving community with extensive community links and amazing grounds and planned facilities.

“Our young people will be able to access meaningful workplace and volunteering links as well as being able to be fully prepared for independent life opportunities such as accessing public transport, libraries, cafes etc. Mayfield Governors are delighted with this new chapter in the life of the school and our pupils, staff and parents have been overwhelmingly supportive.”

Father Luis Ruscillo from the Diocese of Lancaster, said:

“The Catholic community is very pleased to be able to assist in the provision of special school places. Our facilities are becoming available, and it is a great opportunity to work in partnership with the council to expand James Rennie and Mayfield schools. We are especially happy and content that we can make a contribution to the support of children and families with particular needs.”

Kris Williams, Headteacher at James Rennie School, said:

“The students from James Rennie School are excited about the developments at St Edmunds, which will help them with a stepping-stone towards life after school.”