Shropshire Council

New special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) school opens its doors to pupils

07 November 2023 Last updated at 01:41

Celebrations were in order today, Tuesday 7th November, as the families of 70 pupils visited their brand new, state of the art special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) school at Bowbrook in Shrewsbury, for the first time, prior to the formal opening on Wednesday 8th November.   

The opening of The Keystone Academy marks the final stage completion of a great project which involved the development of the recently opened Bowbrook primary school and SEND school after both were given planning approval in September 2022.  

Thanks to good teamwork with all stakeholders, including the DfE, Shropshire Council, The YES Trust and the construction firm Bowmer + Kirkland, the school has been designed and built to a high standard, so as to effectively cater for the special educational needs of the pupils who attend the school.  

The new SEND school, operated by the Youth Engagement Schools (YES) Trust, will accommodate up to 120 neurodivergent pupils, aged 4-16 with a range of social, emotional and mental health needs. 

The specialist academy offers modern teaching environments and includes: 

Outdoor learning spaces, ripe for developing a Forest School environment, a habitat, a pond and horticulture area.   

Indoor and outdoor sports facilities that can be used by both the school and wider community. 

Digital technology throughout the school, including an immersion room for all around sensory learning experiences. 

A variety of sensory spaces, that will be equipped to cater for different sensory needs, enabling pupils to regulate themselves and receive positive sensory input as part of their individualised curriculum. 

A colour palette throughout that has been sensitive to research in relation to supporting and soothing neurodivergent learners. 

(Ali Bellaby, Headteacher and Councillor Kirstie Hurst-Knight)

Councillor Kirstie Hurst-Knight, Cabinet Member for Children and Education said:  

“I am delighted to see The Keystone Academy now opening its doors at its new purpose-built school and welcoming its first pupils.  

“This is an exciting development that will enable Shropshire children with SEND to access high quality specialist provision within the community of Shropshire and will support children to prepare effectively for life as an adult.  

“The academy is one of several projects, we are investing in to secure high-quality and sustainable provision of primary and secondary places in the town and surrounding areas. 

“With the number of pupils with SEND requirements – both in Shropshire and nationally – rising steadily, this is a fantastic opportunity to build a school which caters for the needs of those pupils. It will also complement the provision already in place in the county.” 

“This is a fantastic new chapter in our development to future proofing school placements in particular for our SEND children and young people for the foreseeable future.  

“I’d like to wish all pupils and staff the very best on their first week at their brand-new school.” 

Shropshire Council applied for and secured DfE funding for a SEND free school.  Together with the Department for Education a process was carried out to secure the Trust to run the new school.   

After a competitive process, the Youth Engagement Schools (YES) Trust secured DfE approval to operate the school.  The Council will continue to commission places at the school. 

Ali Bellaby, Headteacher said: 

“I am delighted to be opening our brand-new school, with a wonderful environment which is purpose built for the needs of our fabulous pupils. For those children (and staff) who joined The Keystone Academy in our temporary school last academic year, this is both incredibly exciting and a bit nerve-wracking, as change can be scary!   

Now we are finally in the school, the opportunities we can build and create are endless. Inspiring our learners will continue to be at the very heart of our practice and with fabulous facilities, we will be able to maximise the learning potential for all of our learners, adapting to their individual needs.  This is such an exciting time!” 

One of the academy’s Parent Governors said: 

“We have been so impressed at how Keystone has thrived since opening despite the challenges of being in a temporary home. We are so excited to see Keystone in its new permanent home and all the additional benefits this will bring to the children as Keystone continues on its amazing journey” 

Other parents have said: 

“Moving into a brand new and purpose built building gives our young people an opportunity to learn in a safe and secure environment to meet all of their social, physical and mental health needs that most children don't have.  We feel very lucky that our son has joined at this exciting time.” 

“Us as a family are very excited for the move to the new build. Our son loves his school life since joining Keystone. He can’t wait for his new classroom and the computer room. He’s very excited! “ 

The Keystone Academy school will officially open on Wednesday 8 November.  

Further information 

The special school will cater for children aged 4 to 16 who have special educational needs (SEN) in the area of social, emotional and mental health and who may also have additional needs in the area of, communication and interaction, requiring a level of specialist intervention not ordinarily available within a mainstream school.   

The YES trust has significant experience in supporting children with SEN as well as those requiring access to alternative provision and has successfully established a number of schools and alternative provision settings across Cheshire. 

Shropshire Council has invested in a multi-million-pound programme to expand the primary and secondary school provision across Shrewsbury to meet the increasing demand for pupil places across the town and surrounding areas. 

The Shrewsbury Schools Programme includes the following developments:   

  • Haughmond federation new build (Sundorne/Harlescott schools)  
  • New primary school and SEND school at Bowbrook  
  • Expansion of Meole Brace Secondary School  

The development of the two new schools in Bowbrook will be run separately, with the primary school being operated by The 3-18 Education Trust and the SEND school by the Youth Engagement Schools (YES) Trust. 

Construction of the site has been delivered by Bowmer + Kirkland.