Interview - Louise Parr

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Louise Parr is CEO and executive head teacher of Astrum Multi Academy Trust. Here she talks about the Trust's plans to build a 64-place special free school for children aged two to seven.

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Louise Parr

Tell us about your plans for the special free school

Astrum Multi Academy Trust has a proven track record of providing outstanding services and education to pupils with SEND and is a driving force for development and improvement. We are delighted to see the first part of its vision, for a group of outstanding special educational needs providers, come to fruition after being selected as the provider of a new local authority-commissioned special free school in the London Borough of Redbridge.

This new school is for children aged two to seven with a range of complex special educational needs. As executive head teacher, I had been working with the SEN team in Redbridge to look at ways to address the increasing numbers of children locally with unidentified needs, especially with young children when these needs are very unclear and require assessment and early intervention, with the aim of then inclusion into their local mainstream schools where appropriate.

Where will the new school be built and what facilities will it offer?

The proposed site is a five-minute drive from both of the trust’s Outstanding schools, Newbridge Lower and Upper Schools in Goodmayes, Ilford, and is alongside a mainstream primary school which will give excellent opportunities for inclusion and sharing of expertise and facilities.

We also plan to use the specialist facilities at Newbridge School – for example, the swimming pool – to further extend pupils’ opportunities. We work hard to ensure excellent levels of pupil progress across our schools, also developing their life skills and the ability to learn in a range of environments; for example, in the community and local mainstream schools.

How will you support children? Will there be specialist staff roles?

The staffing will build on the expertise of staff at the current Newbridge schools and will also give opportunities for new staff interested in SEND teaching, including Early Years Educators, teachers and learning support assistants, as staffing levels are high across the trust’s schools, optimising levels of individual support. The school will access the trust’s high-quality professional development, which will support staff expertise.

All pupils will have access to an excellent personalised curriculum based upon pupils’ individual needs and interests, and will have an individualised education plan developed according to their assessed needs and throughout their time at the school. The school will utilise proven specialist SEND resources and teaching and learning strategies to support the development of all the pupils across this wide range of needs.

As current Outstanding providers for pupils with complex SEND, we look forward to the development of this new school along with Redbridge and the DfE, with a proposed opening date of September 2020.

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