Design of new school will be tailored to children with special needs

John Prior, deputy CEO of Orchard Free School, with students at The Workshop in Lambeth Pic: LEGO® Group and Institute of Imagination

A new school designed specifically for special needs children by avoiding long corridors and claustrophobic classrooms is planned for New Addington in 2020.

The free school, which will be built on Field Way, will accommodate 150 children between the ages of 2 and 19, who have autism and learning difficulties.

It has been specifically designed to accommodate the needs of special educational needs children by avoiding design features that can be distressing.  It will be following in the footsteps of schools such as the Priory School, which is also in Croydon.

John Prior, the executive head and deputy CEO at Croydon’s SEN college, Orchard Hill College, who in leading the project told Croydon councillors last week: “We are thinking about landscape and teaching environments. We are making sure that the space works for the teachers as well as the students.”

As well as short corridords and larger classrooms, the school’s outside spaces will be contained to ensure that the children remain safe, particularly at the pick-up and drop off areas, where there is a risk of them running off.

These areas will be separated by age group to ensure that younger students do not feel intimidated by older pupils. Prior said the focus was on creating large flowing areas indoors, with direct access to outside spaces to make the site more calming for its pupils.

Councillor Simon Hall told the meeting: “The landscape should be just as important as the building.”


The proposal is in response to the growing need for more specialist facilities in the borough. Croydon Council has said that the number of young people for whom the local authority provides an education, health and care plan has increased from 1800 to 2500. Due to the increase, more government funding has been directed towards ventures like this one.

David Cooper, a business manager within the special educational department of Croydon Council, explained that the new school will funded by Government money allocated for special needs education.

The council said: ‘The new high-quality school will help achieve the goal of helping all young people with special educational needs to achieve their full potential.”

A planning application will be made in the near future.

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