Hazel Court – a model for the future!

Peter Gordon runs Hazel Court school, a special school in Eastbourne for children with severe learning difficulties – 70 per cent of pupils are autistic – on the same site as a mainstream school. He also runs a further education unit for 16- to 19-year-olds alongside a local FE college.

He believes his students get the best of both worlds. “We’ve got specialised staff and superb facilities here. We’ve got a hydrotherapy pool and a soft play area, but we’ve also got access to two dining halls, an assembly hall, sports facilities and the library in the mainstream school.

“Half our children go to some lessons in the mainstream school, and loads of their youngsters come over to us every day to help with classes. They look at what our children achieve, and learn to have respect for them. This is quite a deprived part of Eastbourne, but we’ve never had one incident of bullying. We share the same uniform and we join in on school trips.

“There is a strong argument for having children with moderate difficulties in mainstream schools, but the curriculum needs to be totally different for children with severe difficulties. I’ve seen children stuck in a classroom, isolated, where staff have no support and can’t call in a psychologist or language therapist. It’s heart-breaking. You do need specialised provision, but co-location is definitely the best way to do it.” HW

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