A SPECIAL school will get a new £8 million home in east Reading, after plans were approved last week.

The vacant Hamilton Centre, at 135 Bulmershe Road, will become the new home for Hamilton School – previously called Phoenix College – currently based on Christchurch Road.

The school provides education for children with special needs.

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Reading Borough Council (RBC) approved last week after receiving £6.3 million funding from the Department for Education.

Councillor Ashley Pearce, lead member for Education, said: “I am pleased that despite being in lockdown, RBC was able to approve the re-development of Hamilton School with Maiden Erlegh and the DfE.”

“The school forms a key part of our special education needs (SEN) strategy and will help improve education for some of Reading’s most vulnerable students.

“With Maiden Erlegh trust now leading the school and this new site, its a chance for the school to really relaunch itself.”

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The decision to move forward with the project was made by the chief executive in consultation with the leader of the council and lead member for Education, with all committee meetings currently cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hamilton School is a special needs school specialising in the education of secondary-aged children with Social Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) issues, and who cannot attend mainstream schools.

The school has been busily changing this year in anticipation of the move, joining the Maiden Erlegh Trust, becoming a special academy and getting a new name – Hamilton School – all within the first month of 2020.

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A new headteacher, Jane Straw, was appointed in March.

The vacant Hamilton Centre building, located near to three other schools, will be refurbished and extended to accommodate 64 students and could later be expanded to 90, with female pupils joining the current-all male college.

Some of the playing fields will be taken up by the new school, although the council says this is “peripheral land not part of the playing pitches or running tracks”.

The DfE has handed out £6.3million in grant funding to the council; RBC will pay £1.8million out of its own capital budget towards the new school.

The current school site, on Christchurch Road, is in poor condition and would have required around £5.4million of repair works to bring it up to a suitable standard, while the DfE considered the buildings unsuitable for an SEMH school regardless of their condition.

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Global construction company ISG Ltd, who have offices in Green Park, Reading, will carry out the refurbishment and building works at the new site.

Planning permission for the new special education needs school was approved by the council in February in anticipation of receiving funding from the DfE.

Concerns were raised at the planning meeting about the loss of green space and the impact on the football pitches at Alfred Sutton Playing Fields.

But planning officers said the green space lost is not part of the playing pitches or running tracks.

Speaking at the planning meeting, Green Party councillor Josh Williams said: “This should be the last application that takes green space away from Alfred Sutton Playing Fields.”

Former council leader Jo Lovelock said she understood residents’ concerns but had been “reassured” the space can accommodate the new school.

She added: “Frankly children that go to that school and the staff that work there deserve better than we have been able to provide.”