Penrose Special School

  • Location

    Bridgwater, Somerset

  • Client

    Somerset County Council

  • Value

    £3m

  • Size

    1,200sqm

Improving the learning experience for pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties

Penrose Special School in Bridgewater is a school for pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties aged 3-19, serving the communities of Sedgemoor and surrounding districts. Following the disappointment of being part of the stopped BSF programme, Penrose School federated with Elmwood School, a state-funded special school for learners with moderate/ severe learning difficulties. The schools now share a governing body and executive Head Teacher but they currently occupy separate sites in Bridgwater, a couple of miles apart.

The vision for Penrose is inspired by the desire to change provisions for learners and to reflect the experience of mainstream students, with a Primary School on the current site and Secondary and Post-16 education available at the other school sites. Where possible, this will provide opportunities for pupils to transistion from education and into independent living. Stride Treglown were appointed by Futures for Somerset to help Penrose School develop its vision across multiple sites as well as improve the buildings on the current site.

Existing buildings on the site were demolished to accommodate a new, part two-storey building that will provide almost 1,200 square metres of new teaching space for the school. A steeply sloping site, early studies focused on the connectivity of the school and how these needs could be met within a constrained footprint and best respond to the steeply sloping levels. The stepped plan was developed to allow the internal lift to navigate from the top of the site to the bottom on a daily basis, supported by an external ramp.

New reception, KS1 and KS2 spaces were provided for sensory and active learners, together with supporting sensory rooms, a soft play area, learning resource bases, medical and therapy rooms and staff, admin and ancillary areas. The existing hall was retained and integrated with the proposed new building, allowing for the potential future development of a nursery. Accessible external areas were essential, and designs were developed to maximise the level connection to outside areas (including, soft play, hard play, sensory and horticulture areas) at all levels of the site.

I just wanted to say that the staff have started to move back into Penrose today and some of them have been crying, – with happiness by the way- and I wanted to let you know what a difference you have all made to us. The children come in to the new school for their first day at 8.45 on Thursday 6th November. If you could be there to see their excitement it would make you all happy / happier people. It would be so lovely to catch up, we are always in your debt, thank you so very much from a slightly tired but very happy head teacher.

Liz Hayward, Head teacher