A flagship facility for children with autism will be officially opened tomorrow (Thursday 12 July) by former Manchester City skipper Paul Lake.
‘Lakey’– who had been widely tipped as a future England captain before a series of knee injuries forced him to retire – is now a community ambassador for the Club and has been working with Grange School in Manchester to help children aged 3-19 with autism.
It’s a project with a strong personal link for Paul, whose youngest son Edward has autism.
The £14m Grange School is a co-educational special school, built through Manchester’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme on the site of the former Cedar Mount High School in Gorton. Work began in April 2010 and finished in November 2011.
The school’s specialist facilities include a multi-level soft play area, and a 4D- sensory room which can simulate experiences like a going to the dentist, going abroad or even going for a walk in the woods.
The new school has places for 150 pupils with residential and short break facilities for 20 children.
The concept of Grange is to combine a number of schools within a school. It provides both primary and secondary school education together with an additional facility called Horizon for pupils with a milder form of autism aged 11-16. Each of the three levels have their own uniform and their own entrance into the school to give a distinct identity.
The ethos of the school is about helping children towards independence. Small groups, averaging six pupils are taught by a teacher and at least two teaching assistants. The school also has two full-time speech and language therapists.
Cllr Afzal Khan, Executive Member for Children’s Services at Manchester City Centre, said: "This is a first-class facility, which uses the latest visual technology to replicate the types of situations pupils will face out of school - in a safe environment with specialist teachers.
"But the facilities aren’t just limited to Grange pupils. As the building has conference and training provision along with therapy rooms, it means that it can be used out of school time to provide support to other children and their families across Manchester."
The design of the building includes features to make the children feel safe and secure. It has a clear, ordered design, with zones for specific activities. Neutral colours have been used internally to encourage calmness and each department has its own colours to help pupils distinguish between them.
Externally, facilities have been designed so that pupils can climb, run, swing, cycle walk or take part in team games. A large canopy has been erected over the courtyard so that pupils can use it in all weathers.
Andrew Smith, Head teacher at Grange School, said: "These facilities complement the dedicated professionalism shown by our teaching staff. We want to make our pupils as independent as possible and having the right building and resources can transform how our children develop."