JCoSS unveils pioneering special needs project

By Leon Symons, December 4, 2008

Plans have been unveiled for the first centre within a mainstream British school dedicated to educating children on the autistic spectrum.
The state-of-the-art facility will be an integral part of the £50-million Jewish Community Secondary School, due to be opened in East Barnet in 2010. The special centre accounts for £11 million of the budget of JCoSS, the most expensive state school ever built.

Norwood will run the special resource provision, as it is officially known, that will cater for up to 55 children. The main staff room will be situated in the facility and integration will be encouraged at every level.

“All the children who come to the centre will have a statement of special educational needs and will be on the autistic spectrum,” Norwood chief executive Norma Brier said this week. “We have already had dozens of inquiries from parents. There is a very important benefit for families in all their children [special needs and mainstream]going to the same school.”

There will be rooms for hydrotherapy, music and art therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Another classroom will be set out as a flat, to help prepare the teenagers to lead independent lives after leaving school.

“Many children on the autistic spectrum need an environment that is stable, consistent and non-confusing and that is what we will be providing for them,” Mrs Brier pointed out. “As they get older and improve, they will be exposed to stronger stimuli and will spend more time being integrated into the mainstream school. Some children will move quite quickly through. Others will be slower and will need more support.

An artist’s impression of the £11 million special resource centre at the Jewish Community Secondary School

An artist’s impression of the £11 million special resource centre at the Jewish Community Secondary School

“We are envisaging a lot of interaction between the main school and the special unit involving both teachers and pupils. We have worked on a philosophy of inclusion which will be of benefit to the whole school.”

A JCoSS spokesman added: “The inclusion of the special unit was one of the reasons why the government was so enthusiastic about the JCoSS project as a whole.”

Last updated: 11:04am, December 4 2008