News & Insights

Schools for special education needs: delivery with a difference

Increased demand for specially-designed and built schools that provide the best possible learning environment for children and young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN) is improving provision and driving forward innovation - creating a step-change in their delivery.

Glenwood School in Benfleet, Essex is an example of just how far design and build has progressed since dedicated facilities for SEN children came into play some 40 years ago. The £15 million education complex was delivered by a project team led by Morgan Sindall and was opened in time for the Autumn term in September 2017.

The school will support 210 young people between the ages of three and 19 years old and will transform the provision that currently exists in this locality to meet the learning needs of many children with SEN.

Morgan Sindall worked closely with Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture, Essex County Council and the end user, Glenwood School, to design an innovative space that will enhance the wellbeing of the young people who attend the school and transform the ways they can learn.

Innovations included:
  • The use of colour to help those who struggle to understand their environments, navigate the school easily and comfortably
  • A hydro therapy pool and a trampoline room with a fully sunken floor, both with comprehensive hoisting systems to ensure the spaces are accessible to all
  • An immersive room where the school will be able to simulate environments so young people can become familiar with places that they might visit, such as an airport as well as situations they could imagine such as being under the sea or in a rainforest
  • Additional consideration of areas requiring re-enforcement to allow for specialist lifting equipment, an example of this was the re-enforced ceiling of the sensory room

Gavin Napper, area director at Morgan Sindall, said: “Delivering a building for mainstream education is not without its challenges, but when delivering an SEN school, construction companies and architects need to be aware of (and understand) the unique factors that must be considered when delivering a facility that is purpose built for individuals with complex needs. “The ability to access all areas easily is paramount when delivering an SEN school and Glenwood will be completely accessible to all.” Gavin Napper, area director at Morgan Sindall.

Judith Salter, headteacher at Glenwood School, said: “We are all very excited about the new building. It is very important to us that the new school feels as warm, welcoming, safe and unique as the current one. We always strive to help our young people develop and learn so they can be as autonomous as possible. We appreciate that many of our young people find change difficult if they have not been prepared so we are particularly pleased that Morgan Sindall is working with us to involve many of the young people. The new facilities will enable us to be even more creative in the ways we can engage our young people in their individual next steps of learning. I am confident that all involved appreciate the importance of being able to give a sense of freedom and choice for the learners whilst still ensuring their safety with a comprehensive approach to security, access and movement within the school building and grounds. The needs of the young people who attend the school vary greatly, some young people are totally dependent on adults to meet all their needs and some can develop a great deal of independence, particularly in contributing to all routines associated with daily living. The new building is designed to meet the needs of all who attend.”

Gavin Napper said: “Glenwood promotes independence and the spaces will promote this. Extra measures have been incorporated into the school’s design to ensure young people will be kept safe. The building will feature internal security features and a secure external fence will surround the school.

“Schools like Glenwood are truly exceptional places providing the very best support and learning opportunities for children and young adults with special educational needs. The outstanding facilities at the new building will provide secure, innovative and exciting learning spaces for the young people and we were thrilled to hand over the school ready for occupation in the autumn term.

"We have built many new schools but the Glenwood project has touched and inspired people in new ways. Gavin Napper, area director at Morgan Sindall “From the very beginning the school has been very active and engaged. The completed build will be the result of a positive partnership between Morgan Sindall, Essex County Council as the client and Glenwood School as the end user. Many of our meetings have and do take place on the site of the existing school and this has helped us understand the ethos, the young people and their needs and the importance of getting it right. The on-site staff are demonstrating amazing commitment to being part of this life changing project.”

Judith Salter said “I am very impressed with the quality of the onsite staff and the way they are managing the site and works. Most of all I love the fact that I think the key staff on site understand and embrace Glenwood and are committed to providing the very best they can because they care. They are following the Glenwood code, Together we will; respect, achieve and make good choices.”