A NEW resource centre for children with autism is being officially opened in Reading next week.
The Blessed Mary Ward Centre, located at Blessed Hugh Faringdon Catholic School in Southcote, will provide 30 places for youngsters with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The new £1.9m provision is part of a wider initiative to improve and increase the diversity of provision for the growing number of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in the borough.
Bishop of Portsmouth the Rt Rev Bishop Philip Egan will conduct the blessing of The Blessed Mary Ward Centre at the official opening ceremony on Wednesday 3rd July.
Blessed Hugh Faringdon previously provided places for pupils with autism in a modular classroom block which had exceeded its useful life. The block was demolished, along with the caretaker’s house, to make way for the new resource centre which has places for double the number of children.
The surrounding area has been landscaped to provide outside space for both educational and recreational purposes for pupils using The Blessed Mary Ward Centre.
Simon Uttley, Head Teacher of Blessed Hugh Faringdon Catholic School, said:
“We are delighted to be able to provide a first-class resource for our students. We are committed to ensuring that all students fully engage with the life of the school and this resource reflects a real investment in our young people.”
There is currently a shortage of special school settings for children who are on the autistic spectrum within Reading and demand is growing. Consequently, a number of Reading pupils have to travel to special schools outside the borough.
The newly expanded ASD resource centre at Blessed Hugh Faringdon will help meet demand for specialist places within a mainstream school in the borough. This will not only benefit the children and their families but save the Council money in the long term.
Cllr Ashley Pearce, Lead Councillor for Education, said:
“I would like to congratulate everyone involved in the project to deliver this excellent new resource centre for Reading.
“The Blessed Mary Ward Centre will provide a modern teaching environment for children with autism and will help meet the growing demand for secondary places for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in the borough.
“Providing more facilities such as this helps keep down the number of Reading pupils who have to travel outside the borough to school, which is better for children and their families and helps to reduce higher placement and travel costs.”
The Council and Brighter Futures for Children are working together to provide improved and additional SEND places within the borough.
Reading was recently successful in its joint bid, with West Berkshire and Wokingham councils, for a new SEN free school in the borough which will have places for 150 students. The school will welcome children on the autistic spectrum as well as pupils with social emotional and mental health needs.
Other projects include an extension to provision at The Avenue Special School for a further 25 students, the relocation and expansion of Phoenix College and plans for two existing mainstream schools in north and west Reading to provide additional places for pupils with autism and social and communication needs.
Antony Kildare, Managing Director of Brighter Futures for Children, said:
“This is a much-needed resource and we are very pleased to have been able to play a part in bringing this about. We are fully committed to increasing and improving the SEND offer in Reading and to working alongside the Council and others to make this happen.
“I’d like to congratulate everyone involved in this project. It’s inspiring to see what can be achieved when we all work together.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Photo Opportunity: The media are invited to send a photographer/reporter to the official opening of The Blessed Mary Ward ASD resource centre at Blessed Hugh Faringdon School, Fawley Road, Southcote, Reading, RG30 3EP at 11.45am on Wednesday 3rd July.
Please let Reading Borough Council press office know if you wish to attend.