Plans for a new free school in Winnersh for Reading and Wokingham children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will move forward, following the appointment of HLM Architects and specialist off-site main contractor Reds10.

The new Oak Tree School will accommodate 150 pupils in the area and is being set up by the Maiden Erlegh Trust. It will be designated for pupils with a Social, Emotional, and Mental Health and/or Autism Spectrum Condition diagnosis.

It will be the third school that our team and Reds10 have worked on together via the Department for Education (DfE)’s Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) Framework, which launched last year. The appointment follows a successful mini competition to DfE contractors. Due to open in September 2022, it will operate as a Special Free School and will be accountable to the DfE.

Primary and secondary school areas will be segregated internally and externally to ensure pupil safeguarding, along with dedicated group rooms and toilets off the primary classroom suite. The facility will further feature ‘Get Ready to Learn’ spaces and a life skills area, resembling a residential studio flat in layout and fitout.

The school will be built on land at Winnersh Farm in Wokingham Borough. Working with Reds10, 85 per cent of the facility is being constructed off-site, enabling the team to deliver in a tight timeframe.

Sal Thirlway, Wokingham Borough Council’s Assistant Director for Children’s Services said: “We’re incredibly pleased to see this project moving forward. It’s a fantastic opportunity to help local children access the specialist education they need without having to travel out of borough. Something that puts so much pressure on families and stops them being able to access the full range of school support and activities. Being able to provide this here in Wokingham is a real achievement and something so many people will benefit from.”

Ashley Pearce, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Education, said: “The number of children with SEND has increased significantly in Reading over recent years, as is the case in neighbouring authorities. It is really important we develop partnerships like this one so that more Reading children can receive the specialist education they need closer to home.”

Paul Ruddick, CEO of Reds10, said: “On this project, we are working to an important deadline due to the shortage of SEND pupil places currently available in the area. Constructing this new school facility off-site will ensure a much quicker delivery time, providing a high quality, low maintenance building that is delivered in a sustainable way. We are pleased to be working with the DfE and HLM Architects on another important project.”

Claire Wakelin, London Studio Director, said: “We are looking forward to once again partnering with the Reds10 team to progress this high-priority SEND school scheme. This project expands on our recent success of delivering state-of-the-art SEN accommodation innovatively using off-site construction, for Wokingham at Addington School and a new SEN school for the London Borough of Havering. The design will create a happy, safe, and healthy environment where pupils with complex learning needs will be able to develop communication skills and independence while learning and achieving.”

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