Work has begun on building a new school for children with special educational needs (SEN) - nearly five years after plans were first submitted.
A ground-breaking event has been held on the Isle of Sheppey for a new specialist secondary school at Halfway Road, Halfway, at the site of the now closed Danley Middle School.
The institution is expected to cater for 120 pupils between the ages of 11 and 16 during their journey from Year 7-11 - with those attending suffering from social, emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH), plus autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).
It will be run by Sabden - a multi-academy trust with five other schools in its ranks in Sussex.
Multi-academy trusts are state-funded free schools in England which are directly funded by the Department for Education (DfE), and not local institutions - in this case, Kent County Council (KCC).
The new institution on Sheppey will therefore be classed as a free school - a type of academy given to newly built state schools.
They provide education to pupils without charge, and with their academy status can spend the money given directly to them by government how they wish, rather than it filtered through local councils like other traditional schools.
A bid was first submitted to the DfE in October 2018 for funding for a new special free school for secondary pupils on the Island, and was successful five months later.
Expectations were for the school to then open to new students in September 2022, before problems caused by the pandemic meant this was delayed by 12 months and then a further year - meaning a new date for 2024 is now expected for its first intake of pupils.
Delays were due to planning issues, a change of specification on some aspects of the project by the DfE and, as a result, a need to renegotiate the contract.
A name for the school is yet to be announced, however a consultation by the Trust across four events in June and July will lead to more information being revealed.
Construction company Reds10 are to design and build the site after being appointed as its main contractor as part of the DfE's 'Off-Site Schools Framework.'
Sabden chief executive officer Jo Foulkes insists she is looking forward to bringing the Trust's knowledge to Sheppey.
She explained: “Many of our current pupils have experienced difficulties in their previous educational placements.
"(So) we strive to create a warm, caring, stable and supportive environment in which all staff and pupils feel safe, and which allows all pupils to reach their full potential.
“Our schools work in collaboration, with school-to-school evaluation and challenge to ensure we are offering the best education and support for the pupils in our care.”
While Sittingbourne has two special schools - Meadowfield and Aspire - Sheppey currently has none, meaning many parents have to travel long distances to commute their children.
The director for education at Kent County Council (KCC) also recently described the county's special educational needs system as a “bottomless pit" following a £103m funding deficit for SEN pupils.
However, KCC cabinet member for education and skills, Rory Love, says he is delighted to see work begin on the Sheppey school.
He said: “This provision is much-needed on the Island.
“It offers greater convenience for families of children with special educational needs in Sheppey, and means children will arrive fresh and ready for school without having to endure the return journey off the Island every day.
“And saving those unnecessary car journeys means less pollution, as well as saving Kent taxpayers the growing cost of transport.”
KentOnline has requested the cost of the build.
However, the following statement was given by a DfE spokesman: "The latest advice from my framework colleagues is we (DfE) only confirm the value of projects once they have been completed.
"This is a change to previous guidance, and is I understand linked to the volatility in the construction sector, and various steps that are being taken across government to stabilise the industry."