State-of-the-art Specialist Centre opens at SET Saxmundham School to support and expand SEND provision in Suffolk

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The state-of-the-art SET Saxmundham Forge. Copyright: Paul Nixon. Credit: SEH French / Ingleton Wood / Seckford Education Trust.

SET Saxmundham School has unveiled a new purpose-built specialist centre to help support and develop some of the most vulnerable young people within a mainstream educational setting in Suffolk.

This unit has been funded by Suffolk County Council as part of its £45 million transformation programme into new Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) placements for children and young people across the county. 

An opening ceremony to unveil SET Saxmundham Forge, the new state-of-the-art specialist centre, was held on 11 March at SET Saxmundham School, which is part of Seckford Education Trust (SET). The event was attended by Suffolk Coastal MP Thérèse Coffey along with staff, students and trustees.

The £1.4 million investment by Suffolk County Council provides 48 additional places for young people aged 11 to 16 in east Suffolk who require SEND support and who are currently unable to attend mainstream education on a full-time basis.

The students will benefit from being educated nearer to their homes and from developing relationships with their secondary school peers. Since September 2021, students have been moving in gradually from other settings.

The two-storey specialist centre features four classrooms, break out spaces and an outdoor area. The centre is separate from the main school with its own entrance, though there is the opportunity for students to enjoy shared activities where appropriate, as well as supporting professional development for teachers. Class sizes will vary between seven and 18 students.

East of England property and construction consultancy Ingleton Wood, and construction firm SEH French, worked together to deliver the six-month project.

Mark Barrow, chief executive officer at Seckford Education Trust, said: “The new specialist centre at SET Saxmundham School offers an exciting opportunity to further enhance our provision for students with additional needs.

“We recognise there is a rising demand for alternative education in Suffolk and, with funding from Suffolk County Council, we are pleased to provide this bespoke learning space for students and families to access within their local community. It was great to work with Ingleton Wood and SEH French who have built similar centres at our schools in Beccles, Ixworth and Felixstowe.”

Sustainable air-source heat pumps are providing green energy for the centre. Heat pumps are low-carbon alternatives to traditional gas or oil boilers. They are installed outdoors and take heat from the surrounding ground or air to provide central heating and hot water.

Meanwhile, an innovative high-quality volumetric modular construction method was used whereby the centre unit was built off-site and later transported and craned into place during the main construction works towards the end of 2021.

East of England property and construction consultancy Ingleton Wood was appointed as project managers and provided full multi-disciplinary services including architecture, planning, mechanical and electrical, civil and structural engineering, and quantity surveying.

Max Chapman, senior associate and architect at Ingleton Wood, said: “We were thrilled to play a leading role in delivering this first-class specialist centre at SET Saxmundham School to provide specialist learning support and development for vulnerable children.

“We worked hand-in-hand with Seckford Education Trust, Suffolk County Council and other key partners to ensure we provided an eco-friendly and high-quality educational facility that provides a welcoming and caring environment for pupils, staff and visitors.

“Everyone worked tirelessly to deliver the project on time and to budget despite the challenges of working under Covid restrictions. Generations of young people in east Suffolk will now benefit from attending one of the best specialist centres in the country.”

Simon Girling, director of SEH French, said: “It’s been a privilege to deliver this project at SET Saxmundham School on behalf of Ingleton Wood. Using innovative methods of building offsite, we were able to minimise the time we were working at the school, therefore ensuring the young people’s education was not impacted.”

A Suffolk County Council SEND Sufficiency Review predicted a projected rise of 18% in the number of young people in need of SEND support between 2018 and 2020. Suffolk County Council announced a £45million transformation programme to create more than 850 specialist placements. 

Rachel Hood, cabinet member for education, SEND and skills at Suffolk County Council, said: “This impressive new specialist unit is part of Suffolk County Council’s commitment to provide more than 850 new SEND placements by 2023 and the council’s investment of £45million. 

“This is wonderful news for families and will enhance the lives of local children and young people, who may need a little more help with their learning and development, for many years to come.” 

SET Saxmundham School was identified as being in an area of Suffolk where additional SEND provision was required. As part of a robust assessment policy, SET Saxmundham School demonstrated it was able to meet the needs of SEND pupils.

Suffolk Coastal MP Thérèse Coffey said: “I was pleased to formally open SET Saxmundham Forge, the specialist SEND centre at SET Saxmundham School, offering a great learning environment in the heart of the school for some of our most vulnerable young people in this part of Suffolk. Congratulations to everyone involved in bringing this to fruition.”

Ingleton Wood was also appointed by SET to design and help build three new specialist centres at SET Maidstone & Causton, SET Ixworth and SET Beccles School. These projects completed over the last two years and have increased SEND provision by 110 places in total.

Ingleton Wood is one of the largest property and construction consultancies covering Central England, East Anglia, London and the South East, with offices in Colchester, Norwich, Cambridge, Billericay, Oxford and London. Its services include architecture, building surveying, building services engineering, planning, interior design, civil and structural engineering, quantity surveying, project management and health and safety.