Inside Epinay as new school site for children with special educational needs officially opens in South Shields after £1.9million transformation
Children and young people with special educational needs have been officially welcomed into their new home from home.
Epinay Business and Enterprise School moved from its original site in Jarrow into the former South Shields School earlier this year.
South Tyneside Council invested £1.9million to make the building suitable for its new pupils and staff.
The adapted building has been kitted out with a rebound therapy room, play therapy room and sensory light areas for children and young people with special educational needs.
Outside, an early years play area features specialist items such as a bug hotel, sand-pit, water-wall, mud kitchen and a climbing wall.
The school will also benefit from a woodland walk, a multi-use games area and horticulture facilities such as greenhouses, raised beds and potting sheds for students to access.
The headteacher Chris Rue, along with council leader Councillor Tracey Dixon, cut the ribbon and unveiled a plaque to mark the official opening of Epinay at the site on Wednesday, December 7.
Chris Rue, headteacher said: “The re-location of the school from its smaller site in Jarrow means that more children with special education needs can now be taught within South Tyneside, instead of having to travel outside the Borough for their education. The move also means that more children with a greater range of special needs can be taught on the new site.
“Our children are already benefiting significantly from the new education spaces that they have. We are all delighted with our new home and are enjoying giving our children the very best education.”
The additional space on the new site also means that Epinay’s sixth form, which was formerly located on off-site rented premises, now has its own dedicated space at the school for 32 young adults.
Councillor Adam Ellison, Lead Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “The number of children with Education Health and Care Plans in South Tyneside has almost doubled since 2015 so it is fantastic that we have been able to respond to this level of need in such a positive way.
“The council’s massive investment means that the facilities in this school are outstanding and will help these young people to achieve ever greater things.”
The school’s catering students will prepare food and refreshments to guests at the official opening as part of their NVQ hospitality training.
Councillor Audrey Huntley, Chair of Governors, said: “I’m so pleased that Epinay school has moved to the new site in Nevison Avenue. The development of the site will be truly life changing for our children.
"The opportunities this move has provided us will ensure that children across South Tyneside are able to access the best education possible for children with SEND needs. We want our children to foster a love of learning - we are ready to listen, ready to learn together.”
Kelly Bushell, from Jarrow, whose daughter, Gracie, has global developmental delay, described the school as “fab.”
She said: “Gracie can find it difficult to control her emotions so having the sensory room is a great help. It is a massive investment from the council but one that is well worth it.”
The former South Shields School closed in 2021 after it was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in 2017 and failed to win an academy sponsor, as well as suffering falling pupil numbers.
The school was rebuilt in 2011 under the terms of a £24million Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal – which commits it to repayments every year until 2036.