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Newark: New Orchard School opens on London Road, Balderton

Youngsters in special needs education have moved into a school they can be proud of.

A new state-of-the-art Orchard School has opened its doors on London Road, Balderton, spelling a new chapter for a school once considered the worst in Nottinghamshire in terms of the fabric of its buildings.

The Orchard was previously split between sites on London Road, which was bulldozed to make way for the new-build, and Appletongate, Newark.

GV of the new Orchard School site on London Road, Balderton.
GV of the new Orchard School site on London Road, Balderton.

Both were described as unfit for purpose.

The sites were affected by unexpected closures brought about by issues such as flooding, causing ceiling collapses and broken boilers.

However, such issues are now a thing of the past following the £12m project led by Nottinghamshire County Council, which provided much of the money.

The council’s chairman of the children’ and young people’s services committee, Phillip Owen, said it was a landmark day in the school’s history and a triumph as the project had carried on during the first national coronavirus lockdown.

GV of the new Orchard School site on London Road, Balderton.
GV of the new Orchard School site on London Road, Balderton.

“The old Orchard School was, simply put, not fit for purpose, and we have been trying for some years to replace it,” he said.

“We managed to get the money together because we wanted Newark to be provided with a school that wasn’t just fit for purpose but state-of-the-art and a school that had the opportunity to grow.

“The Orchard now has places for 140 young people, but could be expanded to 170 ­— places I am sure will be needed in the future.

“The original school sites were two miles apart; the accommodation did not support the needs of the pupils. It was totally inadequate yet still managed to support 105 students over the two sites.

“What we have now is provision for three to 19 year olds with varying mobility and learning difficulties.”

Mr Owen said the school had been designed to replicate the journey through the system that pupils without special needs would have ­— nursery, primary, secondary and post-16 education, all under one roof.

“This aspect is important in not setting apart children with educational special needs from those who don’t,” said Mr Owen.

Mr Owen said that when the pupils entered the school they were greeted by bold colours, which was important for way-finding.

He said the school had plenty of hoists to help children with more severe disabilities be moved, including around the new hydrotherapy pool.

“Construction continued during the first lockdown,” said Mr Owen.

“The school was a week late moving in. Although I don’t have the figures as yet, there was a financial impact of the delay.

“Considering the year we have all had, I think that just being a week behind was miraculous.”

Mr Owen has himself not yet been able to see the school because of the coronavirus restrictions, but said the feedback that he had received was that all concerned were “over the moon.”

He added he was looking forward to the time when it was safe to hold an official opening ceremony.

A new day care centre to replace the ageing one that stood next to the Orchard School has also been built on the site, again, it’s state-of-the-art.

It has now been handed over completed to the county council’s adult and social care department and will assist 100 clients aged 19 to 90 with various and sometimes complex needs.

“These are projects the county council is very proud of,” said Mr Owen.

“And in respect of the Orchard School, fulfils a promise that we made ahead of the last election to the people of Newark.”

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