World-class Swiss Cottage special school opens after seven weeks of delays

Frustration gave way to relief and joy as a world-class school for children with special needs finally opened in Swiss Cottage recently after weeks of delays.

Swiss Cottage Specialist SEN School flung open its doors in Adelaide Road and welcomed pupils for the first time on October 25.

The opening came after a seven-week wait for staff and children eager to move into the new �24million building, after contractors BAM were unable to complete work in time for the new academic year on September 10.

Headteacher Kay Bedford said: “We’ve just been waiting and waiting to get in and the staff have been amazing, going the extra mile.

“The children have risen to the challenge but everyone is just so pleased to move in.

“It wasn’t the start we wanted but now we are here it will just go from strength to strength.”

Over the last few weeks, pupils have been based in The Avenue, Brondesbury Park, but last Friday Ms Bedford, who first set out her vision for the new school in 2004, gave the Ham&High a tour of the school’s new home.

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Split into four floors, it offers a variety of top class facilities for nearly 240 children with a complex range of special needs.

This includes a laboratory equipped to carry out a range of scientific experiments, a dance studio with cutting-edge sensory technology and a music suite with its very own recording studio.

There is also a hydrotherapy pool, separate break-out rooms and canteens for staff and children, as well as a number of large open-air balcony spaces

The school has its own three-bedroom flat to host pupils for overnight stays, designed to teach them the skills they will need to lead independent lifestyles.

Ms Bedford said: “I wanted a world-class centre for children and young people with bespoke facilities that would really help them transform their lives.”

The school prides itself on its multi-agency approach, working with a number of NHS services, including physiotherapy, occupational health and psychotherapy.

The top floor of the new school accommodates its crowning glory – the Research and Development Centre, which it is hoped will improve education for children with special needs across the globe.

The centre will host conferences with schools from around the world to share ideas and discuss ways of improving education for children with special needs.

It will also be used to train teachers and trial research from world-renowned institutions, such as the Tavistock Clinic in Hampstead, and University College London.

The findings will then be shared with other schools around the UK and the rest of the world.

Ms Bedford added: “I wanted facilities to improve teaching and learning within Swiss Cottage and beyond.

“We know we make a difference to children and their families and the Development and Research Centre allows us to make a difference to schools outside.

“It’s so exciting. We are good people who really want to work together to improve the quality of children’s life chances.”