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The Damara School, first of its kind in Thetford, welcomes newest students



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An independent school for children with special educational needs which offers a mindful, therapeutic and holistic approach and is the first of its kind in a town has welcomed its newest students.

The Damara School, in Thetford, currently accommodates just under a dozen pupils, and received its first students back in April. Earlier this month it welcomed its latest group of children.

The school, which aims to serve communities in Norfolk and Suffolk, will offer vital provision for children who struggle in a mainstream educational setting at a time when SEND provision in Suffolk is facing calls to improve.

Sandra Govender, CEO of The Lotus Trust and The Damara School. All pictures: Mark Westley.
Sandra Govender, CEO of The Lotus Trust and The Damara School. All pictures: Mark Westley.

The school, which will eventually accommodate children aged five-16, is headed up by Sandra Govender, CEO of the Lotus Trust.

Sandra, who has worked in education for over three decades, said all students suffered from a range of complex needs, but those were met through a flexible and innovate curriculum.

“Children have a weekly mindful class and all children have a weekly session with a life coach, regardless of their age,” Sandra said.

Ana Graca, teaching assistant, with one of the students.
Ana Graca, teaching assistant, with one of the students.

She added: “We have English, maths and science and that’s because we are preparing children for life after school, so we keep the curriculum the same as other schools, however our other subjects have been designed with the children in mind.”

Some of those classes see pupils taught practical life skills such as budgeting, but they also practise yoga and study psychology and sociology.

The school is receiving funding through the Department for Education and is the end product of a two-year struggle for Sandra and her team.

Despite the long process, Sandra said setting up the school as an independent had been beneficial.

Ana Graca, Sandra Govender and Julie Cox, assistant headteacher, with students.
Ana Graca, Sandra Govender and Julie Cox, assistant headteacher, with students.

“It’s so rewarding because you get to work under the vision of making children’s lives better,” she said.

“So we have the autonomy to create an educational programme that actually focuses on the children’s need.”

Julie Cox, assistant headteacher, said: “I am so excited that our dream of supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged children through the school system is now a reality. We look forward to playing a key role in preparing our children for life.”

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