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Public exhibition held for Aspire free school in Sittingbourne

By Lewis Dyson

This is a first look at the design for a new free school planned for the borough.

Proposals for the Aspire School, earmarked for the corner of Staplehurst Road and Vellum Drive, the entrance to Archers Park in Sittingbourne, were shown to the public at an exhibition on Tuesday, January 23.

It would be funded by the government but free from local authority control and would provide much-needed provision in Swale for 168 children with autism and speech, language and communication needs.

An aerial view of how the new Aspire School in Sittingbourne would look
An aerial view of how the new Aspire School in Sittingbourne would look

The school could open next year, two years later than originally planned.

A public exhibition of the plans was held at Grove Park School, in Hilton Drive, Sittingbourne, which will have the same sponsor with Aspire – Grove Park Academies.

Visitors to the drop-in session were able to see designs of the three form entry school.

One of those to attend was Swale councillor Sarah Aldridge who worked for four years with Grove Park Academies Trust to get the Department for Education to agree to open Aspire.

She said she was “delighted” the free school would be going ahead, subject to the relevant approvals being granted.

However, she added there is still a significant need for post-16 and secondary provision for autistic spectrum disorder students.

Cllr Sarah Aldridge and Cllr Mike Whiting
Cllr Sarah Aldridge and Cllr Mike Whiting

“This is something I am presently pressing for,” she said. “These young people have so much to offer but to reach their full potential it is something we are lacking here in Swale.”

Also there was Kent county councillor and former cabinet member for Education, Mike Whiting (Con), who said: “Those who also attended were very impressed with the plans. We are really looking forward to seeing it come to fruition.

“There were lots of staff on hand and it was a good presentation. It was a great-looking design and you can tell a lot of careful thought has gone into it, taking into account the noise of traffic and things like that.

He added: “There is a lack of suitable places for children with autism and ADHD and sometime they might find themselves in less appropriate settings because of the lack of spaces.

A consultation is underway to gather feedback on the proposals, which ends on Monday, February 5, February 5, February 5. To have your say, go to www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/WKCHM2G

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