WORK on constructing a new SEND school in Reading began yesterday, set to replace the Phoenix College, which was found to be in poor condition.

The £8 million Hamilton School, based on Bulmershe Road, Earley, is set to help up to 64 children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), who would otherwise struggle greatly in non-specialist schools.

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Ashley Pearce, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Education, said: “I am delighted to see work get underway on a new home for the pupils and staff of Hamilton School.

"The children and young people who attend Hamilton School have, in many cases, very challenging upbringings and complex needs as a result.

"A brand new teaching and learning environment will make a huge difference to both their education and wellbeing, and I know that teaching staff will feel the same way.

“The Council has worked closely with the school, the Maiden Erlegh Trust, The University Technical College, the DfE and our colleagues at Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) to bring this project to fruition, and we all look forward to the new building opening in September 2022.

“The creation of a new home for Hamilton School sits within the Council’s wider special educational needs strategy to support some of Reading’s most vulnerable pupils. The strategy will also see proposals being developed for two more specialist SEN units, and an overall increase in the number of Early Years SEN places being offered.”

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The school was made an academy when it joined the Maiden Erlegh Trust on January 1, and will replace the borough's former SEND School, Phoenix College, when it was found that the school was in a poor condition and unsuitable for SEND students.

Mary Davies, CEO of Maiden Erlegh Trust, said: “The new home for Hamilton School will make a huge difference to the quality of experience for both the students and staff, who are already working incredibly hard to improve the school.

"Being able to access new, purpose-built accommodation will make a real difference to all those involved.

"We are very grateful to Brighter Futures for Children, Reading Borough Council, and also to our colleagues at the UTC, for their support in moving this project forwards.”

The new school is expected to officially open by September 2022.

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Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at BFfC, said: “I welcome the start of this work which will result in a vastly improved environment for the students of Hamilton School.

“We have seen a significant rise in the number of children with SEND in Reading in recent years and this project is an important part of BFfC’s and Reading Borough Council’s commitment to meet the increasing demand in the borough.

"We look forward to working on this exciting venture with the Maiden Erlegh Trust, which already runs several successful schools in the Reading area.”