Published: 10:03, 02 August 2019
| Updated: 10:04, 02 August 2019
Work has begun on building a new £10m special educational needs school in Sittingbourne.
The ground-breaking ceremony was on Monday at the Aspire Free School in Vellum Drive where pupils gathered with teachers, officials, trustees and designers.
Although contractors BAM had a 14-tonne excavator standing by, Swale council's Cllr James Hunt and executive headteacher Ceranne Litton used a shovel to 'turn the first sod'.
Ceranne said: “We are very excited. It has taken years to get this far. It’s a huge step forward for education and people across Kent.”
The school, run by Grove Park Academies Trust, will open in 2020 with space for 168 children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other severe speech and language difficulties.
Cllr Hunt said: "This came from an initial idea when two parents identified a need for special needs provision in Swale.
"It is a great achievement that seven years later we are seeing the start of construction of this much-needed school.
"It has been a long, hard journey with many people and organisations playing their part in making this a reality.
"I am pleased Swale council has played its part in ensuring that land allocated for a school has been used for its original purpose rather than what could have been further housing."
He added: “I look forward to working with Grove Park Academies to see the school become an integral part of the community."
The school has been designed by architect Bond Bryan and is being built by BAM which has worked on more than 100 major projects in Kent since 1877.
It recently completed four special educational needs schools in the county.
Project manager Alan Newland said: "Building any school needs to be an especially sensitive partnership where you listen carefully and understand thoroughly what is needed for the staff, pupils and local community.
"One which caters for pupils with special needs requires even more care and attention.
"It’s a very important responsibility and we will bring our vast experience to it and look forward to handing over facilities that will literally change lives.”
More by this authorJohn Nurden