School takes on new role

All change: Brantwood School
All change: Brantwood School
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A FORMER Sheffield private girls’ school which closed a year ago due to financial difficulties is to be given a new lease of life.

Brantwood in Nether Edge is to reopen as a special school for 50 pupils aged seven to 19 with learning difficulties and development delay, particularly autism.

The 108-year-old school closed suddenly last February half term, leaving parents to find new places for their children at short notice.

Now Brantwood has been bought by Ruskin Mill Educational Trust, which already runs Freeman College in the city for 16 to 25-year-olds with similar conditions.

The trust will invest £1.9 million on the campus over the next three years and the school will be registered as a children’s home to allow it to provide residential care for some of the students all year round.

Freeman College’s director of fundraising David Heugh said: “The trust has long desired to extend its provision to an earlier age range, recognising that early intervention is the key to meeting the developmental needs of young people and children with learning disabilities.”

The new Brantwood Specialist School is expected to open in the summer and will provide a unique curriculum drawing on the trust’s practical therapeutic skills within the assessment framework of the National Curriculum.

It will also offer accredited qualifications including GCSEs and vocational qualifications in work experience placements.

The trust has funded the purchase of the school from its own reserves and with a substantial loan from the Triodos Bank, a European ethical bank which supports sustainability, environmental and educational projects.

Sonia Sharp, the city’s executive director for children’s services, said: “The city council will willingly work in partnership with RMET and with Freeman College.

“At present, a few of our primary and secondary children with special needs are necessarily placed in schools and children’s homes some distance outside Sheffield so the plan for Brantwood will meet a definite need in Sheffield.”

The school’s new headteacher, Constantin Court, formerly assistant principal and head of residential care at Freeman College, said: “We believe in developing the whole person, meeting the physical, emotional, spiritual and social, as well as the academic needs of the pupil.”

The new school, which will start with a small number of pupils, rising to 15 places by September, will recruit specialist teachers, support and residential staff.

The school will have 20 staff initially and expects to recruit more as pupil numbers grow year by year.