CHILDREN at a Sheffield special school gave a warm welcome to a rare royal visitor - His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester.
The Queen’s cousin toured the Paces School at High Green, which teaches and cares for youngsters with cerebral palsy. He also opened a new teaching block after meeting staff, governors and executives.
The Duke heard Paces was set up in 1992 by a group of parents who had seen the benefits of conductive education - a specialist learning system that looks at all of a child’s physical, social and educational needs.
He was shown around the school’s five acre campus - formerly the site of a comprehensive - and met some of the 27 pupils who come from all over South Yorkshire and beyond.
The Duke - who later went on to reopen the Millennium Gallery’s collection of Victorian scholar John Ruskin’s art, and judge a flower festival at Rotherham Minster - unveiled a commemorative plaque.
He said: “The alternative education you offer here is effective and is an example for others to follow.”
Chair of governors John Biggin said: “Paces has come a long way since it was set up nearly 20 years ago. Having the Duke open the new teaching block marked a milestone towards our aim of Paces becoming a free school, able to help so many more children and young adults.”
Paces is seeking to become Sheffield’s first free school, receiving funding direct from Government,
Chief executive Norman Perrin said he believed youngsters with cerebral palsy are not getting the support they need. Staff believe free school status would allow Paces to triple its intake over five years from next September - if approval is granted.
Mr Perrin said: “We currently cater for 27 students - a pitifully low number when you consider there are 750 children in the county with cerebral palsy.
“It means just over three per cent of these youngsters are getting the best education to meet their whole needs - the others are in mainstream schools and settings, which is not necessarily the best for thing for them.
“To our mind cerebral palsy is being kept out of sight, which is why we feel we have no choice than to apply for free school status.”