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Headteacher reflects on first months of Castle EAST special educational needs school in Bungay



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A school for children with special educational needs which opened in Bungay last October is going from strength to strength, its headteacher has said.

Castle EAST, part of the EAST Anglian School Trust, accommodates pupils with Communication and Interaction (C and I) Needs.

At capacity, there will be 120 children at the school across Years 5 to 11, however currently there are just under 30 pupils on roll.

Ms Jamison and Mrs Coman with pupils. Pictures: Castle EAST
Ms Jamison and Mrs Coman with pupils. Pictures: Castle EAST

Pupils will be phased in across a minimum three-year period.

Since opening last year, headteacher Anna Mears said the school was going from strength to strength.

"It's going really, really well," she said.

Anna Mears, headteacher at Castle EAST, said children were 'flourishing' at the school
Anna Mears, headteacher at Castle EAST, said children were 'flourishing' at the school

"The children are flourishing here. We have seen a real change in confidence levels and they are genuinely happy to come into school each day.

"The curriculum we are delivering here is meeting the need."

SEND provision in Suffolk has come under fire in recent months.

Just last week, it was announced campaigners met with the Department for Education on April 29 where they outlined their concerns about special educational needs and disabilities provision at Suffolk County Council.

At capacity, Castle EAST will accommodate 120 pupils
At capacity, Castle EAST will accommodate 120 pupils

Mrs Mears acknowledged there was a 'desperate' need for adequate SEND provision in the county.

"Lots of parents find themselves at a crossroads and they have to make a decision about whether they want their child to progress academically or socially," she added.

"And what we want to do here at EAST is both."

Castle EAST School opened last October. Picture: Castle EAST
Castle EAST School opened last October. Picture: Castle EAST

Mrs Mears, who has been teaching for around 22 years and joined Castle EAST from a senior deputy headteacher role at Olive AP Academy, an alternative provision school in Stowmarket, explained how the day-to-day of school was about making every second count.

That comes in the form of having a 'visible' staff team who 'hit the ground running' from the moment pupils arrive until they leave and working on building relationships and trust with the children.

"We have had to do a lot of work unpicking traumatic educational experiences so we work that way on them (the pupils)," Mrs Mears said.

The school day is also crammed with tasks which build pupils' communication and interaction skills.

Some of the approaches include supporting with understanding of and regulation of pupils' emotions, social stories and helping children access appropriate models of language.

Work is also being done on developing a forest school on the premises to aid pupils' outside learning.

Mrs Mears said so far it had been 'brilliant' to head up the school.

"To become headteacher of a specialist school and build it from the ground up has been a privilege and a grind, and involved some long hours and weeks," she said.

"But overall it's been an absolute privilege."