CONSTRUCTION of a new £23million state-of-the-art school in Bridgwater is now complete.

The first pupils will this summer attend Polden Bower School, in Bower Lane, which will cater for 160 young people with complex needs.

The project is part of a wider Somerset County Council programme to boost provision for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) in the county.

The purpose-built school is for four to 16-year-olds with the most complex needs, while a further 40 places for 16 to 19-year-olds will be provided at the existing Penrose School site.

Primary aged children are due to start on site in June, with older children following in July so that they get the accustomed to their new environment before the start of the new school year in September.

The design of the three-wing school, which was influenced by children, parents, carers and teachers, includes a warm water pool for physiotherapy; a sports hall; a sensory room; and fully accessible classrooms with the latest teaching technology.

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A café will help post-16 students develop vocational skills and encourage engagement with parents, carers and the wider community.

Helen Farnell, executive headteacher at Polden Bower School, said: “We are so excited to have reached the handover milestone and are grateful to everyone who brought the scheme into fruition.

"We are all very excited to get into the space and start using the wonderful facilities it will provide for our young people.

"I can’t wait to welcome the first pupils in soon and see their faces. This facility will truly be transformational to some of our young people.”

Cllr Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council lead member for children’s services said: “It’s fantastic to see Polden Bower, such a significant project and investment, being realised.

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"The new building will be a real asset to Somerset and for our children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities, their families and carers.

"It’s a tremendous achievement, and I want to thank everyone involved for all their hard work from the initial thought right up to now when it’s ready for the children and young people to come in.”

The school was designed by Bristol architects AWW and Willmott Dixon were the main contractor.

Rob Woolcock, director for Willmott Dixon in the South West, said: “The team have overcome many challenges, including a global pandemic to deliver an exceptional school for Bridgwater.

"The school is going to make such a difference to local children with the most complex needs, providing them with the therapeutic facilities that will support their development. The whole team have been proud to be a part of this project.

“Despite the pandemic, we ensured the project had a far-reaching impact on the local community. We engaged with over 800 young people and provided work experience to bricklaying students from Bridgwater and Taunton College.”