Technology breakthrough for two special schools
So far, only five special schools have been designated specialist colleges by the Government. The initiative requires schools to raise pound;100,000 to support their bids and build on an area of expertise - as well as to share it with other local schools.
Beaumont Hill and Abbey Hill special schools' joint bid for technology status is the first - mainstream or special - to straddle two education authorities. Beaumont Hill is the only special school in Darlington, while Abbey Hill is a 20-minute drive away in Stockton-on-Tees.
The joint technology college was officially launched last week, by schools minister Estelle Morrie, who visited both schools.
The schools cater for many special needs - including chilren with multiple handicaps and emotional and behavioural difficulties. Abbey Hill takes secondary-aged children while Beaumont Hill's range from two to 19.
The college will specialise in technology, science and maths, and will use its community links to support pupils with special needs in mainstream schools.
Mike Vening, head of Abbey Hill, has set his sights on a virtual learning environment, with "control" technology - such as toggles or switches, or adapted tools - enabling even the most disabled students to become involved in their own learning.
He added: "We want to take the agenda for inclusion further in the region, and act as bases for training and excellence, so colleagues in the mainstream can see the benefits of partnership working for students in both mainstream and special schools."