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Step into the mainstream

A pound;4 million new school building which combines a special school and a mainstream primary has been hailed as a model for special needs education.

Built around a Bronze Age burial ground in Witney, Oxfordshire, Springfield special school and Madley Brook primary school share assembly halls, an IT suite, food technology room, library and staffroom.

The special school classrooms are arranged around the inside of a horseshoe-shape with the protected burial ground in the middle. Mainstream classes are around the outside.

The headteachers expect their pupils to be able to mix in the corridors and share assemblies, playtimes and lunchtimes.

Children in the mainstream school will also be able to use the special needs facilities, such as a hydrotherapy pool, a soft play room and a sensory theatre with a bubble and wind machine.

Adrienne Martin, Madley Brook's headteacher, said: "It's very difficult to tell where one school starts and another one finishes. That's deliberate."

Christina Niner, headteacher of Springfield school, said her pupils had adapted well, but that they also had quiet areas to which they could retreat.

"We didn't see our future in a segregated special school. We felt our children needed to mix with and deal with mainstream children," she said.

Professor Ingrid Lunt, from the institute of education at the University of London, said: "This is highly unusual, if not unique. It bucks the trend of the past 20 years. If these two schools can work together, they have a fantastic opportunity."

Friday magazine 20

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