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Oak Lodge School in Dibden Purlieu grows with £940,000 Acorns investment

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Pictured with Cllrs Keith Mans and Stephen Reid (rear, l-r) are Oak Lodge chair of governors Mike Robinson and headteacher Sharon Burt
Pictured with Cllrs Keith Mans and Stephen Reid (rear, l-r) are Oak Lodge chair of governors Mike Robinson and headteacher Sharon Burt

MORE places have been created to meet rising demand at a special school, thanks to a £940,000 investment from Hampshire County Council.

The funding for new buildings and additional car park spaces at Oak Lodge School in Dibden Purlieu, a specialist arts college which caters for 146 students aged 11 to 16 with a variety of educational needs such as Down’s Syndrome and autism spectrum conditions, was approved by HCC in January.

Work on the modular building, known as Acorns, began in June. Each of the four new classrooms – which were constructed offsite – includes smaller “nest” areas for quiet time. There are new toilets, a staff room, kitchen and life skills area. A dedicated outside space has proved popular at break times, and more parking spaces have been created.

The block – which is linked to the main school by a canopy – opened in time to welcome additional pupils for the start of the 2018/9 school year. Cllr Stephen Reid, HCC’s executive member for education and skills, human resources and performance, joined deputy leader and executive lead member for children’s services, Cllr Keith Mans, for a visit.

“Oak Lodge is an inspiring school that achieves positive outcomes for its pupils by treating each of them as individuals and recognising their differing needs,” said Cllr Reid.

“However, a growing population and increased demand for specialist places meant the school needed to grow. I am very pleased that we have been able to provide this swiftly and effectively while maintaining the Oak Lodge character.”

Cllr Mans added: “We have seen first-hand today how proud the pupils are of their school and its new facilities, and how the school works closely with its neighbour Applemore College to benefit both school communities.

“As well as providing a tailored academic curriculum that caters for a wide variety of needs and abilities, the life skills taught at Oak Lodge equip some of our most vulnerable young people with a level of confidence and independence that will help them transition into adult life, so the county council’s investment is money well spent.”

Sharon Burt, Oak Lodge headteacher, welcomed the visitors and explained how pupils with differing cognitive abilities could benefit from a range of learning environments within the school’s classes to suit their needs.

“Pupils are now being placed at Oak Lodge School with increasingly complex emotional/mental health needs associated with autism,” she said. “Our team is very skilled in tailoring the breadth and diversity of the curriculum, working closely with our partners and parents, to cater for each and every student to improve their well-being, so they enjoy and achieve as they become well prepared for adulthood.

“The additional building, customised to the needs of students, has enabled the school to provide more space for personalised learning and to further extend our specialism in the Arts as a medium for developing pupils’ communication, social and independence skills, enabling students to build their self-confidence and self-esteem.”

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