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(Photograph) - A week in the life of the Meadows special school, Sandwell, West Midlands

They are building the foundations of success at the Meadows, as the 120 students, wearing a new uniform they designed themselves, gear up for a move to purpose-built, state-of-the-art premises.

The Meadows was launched last year as part of a revamp of special needs education in Sandwell, but was split between two sites, three miles apart.

In January, though, pupils, staff and building contractors gathered on a muddy site in a ground-breaking ceremony for a pound;6.2 million building that will unite the school next spring, and which aims, says head Angela Duncan, "to set the standard to which other schools will aspire".

Deputy head Dean Coombes says the school has a brief to be creative and visionary, and in keeping with this, it gave students the chance to design their own uniform. The finished garments arrived in time for the start of term last September, sporting a logo and school motto, "aim high and smile", that was all the students' own work.

They marked the occasion by releasing 200 balloons carrying tags with students' names and the school address.

One month later, a six-strong team brought home 23 medals, including seven gold, from the Special Olympics national indoor games.

The young athletes went to the games on the Isle of Wight in new tracksuits, thanks to a teacher who aimed high, and then low, herself. Nikki Fletcher raised more than pound;300 with a sponsored 250ft bungee jump.

Dean Coombes says: "It's been a busy and exciting time, and everybody is looking forward to being together next spring." Smiles better.

Snaps by Phil Hill and staff

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