To celebrate the opening of a new, custom-built school in Okehampton, Mel Stride, MP for Central Devon and Percy Prowse, Chairperson of Devon County Council, paid a visit to the school to learn about the school’s transformative approach to raising the aspirations of children with social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) needs.
The Promise School, part of Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust, caters for children aged four to 16 providing much need specialised support, and enhancing the pastoral services already offered by the trust. The school will serve up to 100 of pupils from across the town and wider area.
Having officially opened in September 2022, the pupils have previously been accommodated in dedicated sites at both Okehampton Community College and St James C of E Primary School. From the start of the 2023/24 academic year, the students have now moved into the custom-built site in the centre of Okehampton.
The visitors to the school received a tour of the building from new Principal Gareth Howells, during which they heard about how the brand-new, first-class facilities would ensure students are supported to access a broad and inclusive curriculum in the very best environment. They also had the chance to meet with students and hear about their first few weeks in the building and their excitement for the rest of the year ahead.
The school was commissioned in response to a clear need in the local area for a new school that could effectively cater for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities. Its location was chosen to specifically address the lack of special school provision in the west Devon area, which in turn will help to reduce journey times for vulnerable pupils.
Belonging to the wider DMAT family, the school and staff will be able to access the expertise and support of the Trust, as well as bespoke resources and the ability to share best practice ensuring they are implementing high-quality SEND provision.
Dan Morrow, CEO of Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust, said:
“We are so excited to see the Promise School’s new site open to students and staff alike. With the opening of this new, custom-built campus, we are able to be able to continue to make a real difference to the lives of even more children in the community with SEMH needs.
“The Promise School will provide the children of Devon with essential support and empower them with the skills and knowledge to flourish. Our central Trust team has worked closely with the Promise School staff to share best practice and expertise to ensure we are providing the best possible provision for local children. We are much looking forward to what this year holds for the children of the Promise School.”
Mel Stride, Member of Parliament for Central Devon, said:
“I was hugely impressed by this new school. It will provide outstanding opportunities for many children going forward. Bringing out the very best of their abilities and talents.”
Councillor Lois Samuel, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for services that support children and young people with specialist educational needs and disabilities, said:
“This is yet another example of Devon County Council’s continued significant investment in specialist educational provision in local communities, reducing the need for some children and young people to travel distances to access quality learning that meets their individual needs.
“Personally, as local Devon County Councillor for Okehampton, I am also especially pleased to have the new school in our local community.
“In helping to bring this project forward, we have worked hard across the whole of the council to secure the land, source the funding, delivering the building and to bring in a local sponsor.
“I’d like to thank the school for all it is doing to ensure that children and young people receive the best education and learning experience, helping to provide students with the opportunities to develop and grow to achieve their full potential.”