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Norfolk school to provide more support for autistic children from January 2021

PUBLISHED: 16:27 28 May 2020 | UPDATED: 17:08 28 May 2020

Thetford Academy is set to offer 20 places at its Specialist Resource Base for youngsters with autism from January 2020. Photo: Inspiration Trust

Thetford Academy is set to offer 20 places at its Specialist Resource Base for youngsters with autism from January 2020. Photo: Inspiration Trust

Inspiration Trust

A Norfolk secondary school is set to provide autistic children with “the education they deserve” as its specialist resource base will officially open from January 2021.

Dan Carter, Principal of Thetford Academy.. Photo: Inspiration TrustDan Carter, Principal of Thetford Academy.. Photo: Inspiration Trust

Thetford Academy, under the Inspiration Trust, was discussed at the Department for Education’s East of England Headteacher board meeting on May 21.

And from January 2021 the school will be able to provide 20 youngsters, from across Norfolk, who have been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), a place at its Specialist Resource Base (SRB).

Iain Mackintosh, Director of Inclusion at Inspiration Trust, said: “The Specialist Resource Base will help ensure that pupils are able to access the support and education that they deserve.

“We’re pleased to be working in collaboration with Norfolk County Council to provide this service for the Breckland area.”

Ten-year-old Lilly-Ann O'Connor has autism and is set to join Thetford Academy in September. Photo: Rick O'ConnorTen-year-old Lilly-Ann O'Connor has autism and is set to join Thetford Academy in September. Photo: Rick O'Connor

These bases will provide additional learning space and extra support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), which will allow them to stay within mainstream education.

Dan Carter, principal of Thetford Academy, said: “I’m pleased that Thetford Academy will be able to support 20 children at its new Specialist Resource Base (SRB).

“Being able to provide support and care for students via our new SRB is a privilege and we’re looking forward to the next chapter.”

MORE: ‘I feel forgotten’ - Ten-year-old with autism calls for more support during pandemic

Rick O’Connor is father to ten-year-old Lilly-Ann, who has autism, and was set to join Thetford Academy in September.

The O'Connor family. (from left to right) Alfie O'Connor, Rick O'Connor, Caz O'Connor and Lilly-Ann O'Connor. Photo: Rick O'ConnorThe O'Connor family. (from left to right) Alfie O'Connor, Rick O'Connor, Caz O'Connor and Lilly-Ann O'Connor. Photo: Rick O'Connor

He said: “It’s good that autism is being recognised and SRB’s provide intensive education from specialised teachers. But it’s not necessarily an ideal situation.

“Children shouldn’t have to be moved out of their current setting in order to receive support or have to travel across the county.

“Ideally what I as a parent would like to see is something more permanent within the classroom.

“If you look at the cost of opening an SRB, which means moving autistic children from their current setting, I think it would be better invested to support them within their classroom at every school.”

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This comes after Norfolk County Council announced in 2018 that it would invest £120m in specialist school places and create more than 500 extra spaces for children with special educational needs and disabilities across the county.

MORE: Town’s schools set to provide more support for autistic children


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