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Child in the sensory room at Glenwood School in Essex

Blog: A duty to do more

Blog written by Peter Whitmore, managing director for Morgan Sindall Construction in the East.

I’ve always felt that we have a duty to ensure the built environment shapes and improves lives during, and way beyond, the construction process.

This is especially key when it comes to special education needs or disabilities (SEND) school design and delivery; creating places where individuals can truly thrive and fulfil their potential is something we care deeply about.

We must work collaboratively to challenge the status quo in transforming the design and delivery of SEND campuses going forward. Watch Oliver’s story here to see just what an impact this can make to young people’s lives:

This requires a level of trust to enable the candid conversations that will allow true innovation to take place, and start us on the journey to secure improved outcomes for every young person wth SEND.

Around 15% of the pupil population, approximately 1.3 million school age students in England, are classed as having special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).

Future proofing and equipping our SEND school estate to enable this growing cohort of young people to thrive, develop and fulfil their potential is a complex challenge.

Whilst investment is an important aspect for the sector, it alone is not the silver bullet we need to future-proof provision. Council’s continue to face immense pressures in providing care, support and education provision for these young people.

The Building Better Futures report was born

It was with this in mind that, two years ago this month, we embarked upon a journey to explore how to improve the design and delivery process, as we are so often faced with the question: “What makes a great SEND school?”

To unpack and explore this question we brought together experts, partners, clients, collaborators and influencers from the public and private sectors to look at the factors that make up a truly great SEND school, and examine how the delivery pathway could be enhanced for all stakeholders involved.

Our initial nine-month research project helped create our Building Better Futures white paper. As the data emerged though, we knew this was going to be a longer journey. Before COVID-19 hit the UK, we held a knowledge forum with our key contributors to develop the ideas around the paper, and then, at the back end of 2020, a series of in-depth knowledge workshops with an even wider pool of experts helped us drill down into even more learning points.

Coupled with a series of Post Occupancy Evaluations and technical lessons learned workshops, we ended up with over 600 data points to learn from. Over the first four months of 2021, we’ve spent our time interrogating and trending this data, so that, at the end, we can loop this back around to some of the commitments we made in the white paper and produce some evidenced guidance that can help improve the design and delivery of these fantastic schools.

In the midst of this, I was joined by Alison Revell from Cambridgeshire County Council and Claire Barton from Haverstock, to dicuss the journey so far and where it needs to go. If you’ve got 30 minutes spare, you can listen to the full pod right here.

Keeping the conversation going

You can also listen to snippets from the podcast here, with insight from Alison Revell from Cambridgeshire County Council and Claire Barton from Haverstock.

This journey has been so enlightening and the biggest thing it has taught us is that it will be an infinite one.

We wanted to start a conversation which shared insights, sparked innovation, and encouraged collaboration. We are not the experts by any stretch and we’re truly grateful to the many who have supported us so far, but we hope that the consolidation of these wonderful minds will help make a positive impact on the sector now, and in the future too.

Because ultimately, it’s not about us as a collective, but about improving the lives of the children and young people who learn in these fantastic schools.

Have you read the first Building Better Futures report?

Click to read