£2.3m school extension adds vital resources for Cornish children

A £2.3 million pounds extension to a specialist school catering for children and young people with a wide range of learning needs has been opened in Truro by Cornwall’s Lord-Lieutenant, Colonel Edward Bolitho, OBE

Oak Tree School, at Truro Business Park, is rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. It provides full-time specialist co-education for children and young people between the ages of seven and 16, who experience social, emotional, mental health, communication difficulties and associated challenging behaviours.

It opened in 2014 with just two pupils and with this extension, will now cater for up to 65 pupils who will come from all over Cornwall.

Colonel Bolitho said “I was hugely impressed by this outstanding school and the great start it gives to some of our most complex young people in Cornwall.  It was a real privilege to open the new building and meet some of the brilliant staff, students and parents.”

Oak Tree School is part of Acorn Care and Education. Chief Executive, David Leatherbarrow, said pupils had been looking forward to the opening and he shared their excitement.

“I am so proud of this school, its staff team and its wonderful pupils,” said Mr Leatherbarrow. “Working closely with Cornwall Council enables us to understand the requirements of local children and to focus on their specialist educational needs as part of Cornwall’s commitment to providing for them. Oak Tree School has been recognised as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted and has achieved inclusive, dyslexia friendly school status.

“It is now five years since the school opened its doors with just two students…and I have to say those two students have GCSEs and other qualifications after five years with us – they have all done brilliantly.

“This now means we have capacity to work with 65 children who come from all over Cornwall – from as far down as Penzance – all the way up to Bude.”

The extension includes five large classrooms, a sensory room, an intervention classroom, two offices, a reception area and a meeting room. There is also more outside play areas.

The school has a 72-strong staff team made up of senior leaders, 24 teachers, 37 support staff and five managing the school administration and the site facilities.

Staff work collaboratively with parents/carers and the therapy team, which includes a drama-therapist, trained counsellor and applied psychologist, to reach a shared view of how best to support the needs of each individual in their care. Onsite therapeutic interventions are embedded into the daily practice of the school, enabling each young person to acknowledge their strengths and build on their own resources to increase resilience.

Oak Tree offers a full school curriculum and students may achieve GCSEs, BTECs, City & Guilds, ASDANs, Duke of Edinburgh awards and more. It is only the second school in the country to gain Trauma Informed status.