CHILDREN with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are set to benefit from a new £12 million school.

The Orion Academy has opened its doors at its new site in Knights Road, Blackbird Leys.

The school, which will have capacity for 108 pupils, has been built at its former home when it was Northfield School.

Northfield was found to be inadequate by Ofsted in November 2018, and became an academy in February 2020. It was then renamed Orion Academy.

The specialist academy will teach pupils aged from 11 to 18, who have a range of additional needs, including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and speech and language difficulties.

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Headteacher Lynne Smith said: “This is a very important moment in time for the students and staff at Orion Academy.

“We are delighted to welcome our school community into a purpose-built, state of the art building where we believe our students will flourish and access a broad range of exciting and innovative learning opportunities.

“We are also proud to open our school to the local community in the future, so they are able to enjoy our sporting facilities.”

Orion becomes the sixth SEND school in Oxfordshire operated by The Gallery Trust, a specialist multi-academy trust based in Oxford.

Kay Willett, chief executive officer of The Gallery Trust, said: “I am delighted the children are going to benefit from this exceptional environment and access resources they deserve.

“It is a wonderful building, and it will also benefit the local community.

“We are very grateful to everyone who has supported this build and in particular the attention given to the development of the estates strategy in Oxfordshire for children with special needs.”

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The new building consists of a single-storey, 2,700 square metre building, housing 14 classrooms.

There are specialist rooms for science, art and music, while pupils can practice cooking in a dedicated life skills space.

In the middle of the school is The Bridge, a therapeutic base and social area, while there is also a large dining area and separate games hall, with an attached gym.

The old structure is now set to be demolished and its place, will be an all-weather Sport England compliant five-a-side pitch, MUGA (multi-use games area), and grass pitch with running track.

This second phase will be completed next year.

Calum Miller, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for finance, said: “It's been a huge effort to deliver it on time despite the pandemic.

“There has been great teamwork behind the shared goal of building this specialist learning environment to ensure every pupil gets the very best start in life.”

Councillor Liz Brighouse, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Youth Services, said: “This is a very significant moment, demonstrating our commitment to every child and young person in the county. I’m confident Orion School pupils will receive the very best education, shaped for their individual needs, and in a first-class teaching environment.”