A new special school has opened in Bristol, providing school places for children with complex needs.
Around 20 children are initially being enrolled as day pupils at Grace Garden School in Canford Park, with more expected when a residential wing is opened up in the next year or two.
Grace Garden has been opened by the Gloucestershire-based education charity Ruskin Mill Trust, which has created a school for children aged between nine and 16 with complex needs, including those with a diagnosis of autism and associated learning difficulties.
Ruskin Mill Trust bought the buildings and land, located between Henbury Golf Club and the southern tip of the Blaise Castle Estate at Coombe Dingle, late last year from the Cherry Orchards charity.
For decades, Cherry Orchards had run a therapy centre there in the buildings and up to 20 acres of gardens, fields and woodland, which included a small residential care home.
That closed last year, and Ruskin Mill secured a £3 million loan from Bristol-based Triodos Bank to buy and convert the site.
Now, the pupils at the Grace Garden School will learn in the centre’s kitchen gardens, fields with animals and woodland.
Ruskin Mill said they had long had the aim of opening a school in Bristol, and the site was perfect for its unique method of practical skills therapeutic education.
“I am extremely excited to be leading this new and innovative provision in Bristol,” said new executive principal Francesca Meynell.
“We are so fortunate to have found a wonderful site for our new school: we have 18 acres of cultivated land on the edge of the city, bursting with potential for our work,” she added.
The £3 million loan cements a long-standing relationship between Triodos Bank and Ruskin Mill.
“We aim to deliver positive impact through our lending, and a key area of focus is ensuring that all children have access to education and a good quality of life,” said Triodos’ south west boss Phillip Bate.
“We’ve worked with Ruskin Mill Trust for over two decades now and are delighted to help support more children to benefit from its holistic approach to learning,” he added.
Bristol has a long-documented shortfall of more than 250 special school places, although the Grace Garden school is particularly specialised and is taking pupils from across the West of England region, not just Bristol.
The annual fees – paid by local authorities if they agree a child needs to go there, are £65,000 for a day pupil.