10:53AM, Wednesday 03 October 2012
Work is underway to transform a former barn into a temporary home for Beech Lodge School after council planners gave the green light.
The independent school is set to open in the building at Top Farm in Honey Lane, Hurley, for two years while the search continues to find a permanent site.
Founders Daniela Szmigielska and Emma Barklem gave the Advertiser a guided tour on Monday and said they were 'delighted' to have secured planning permission for the barn.
Daniela said: "We've had a fantastic response from people saying 'this is exactly what my child needs'."
The school will begin with no more than 10 children aged between nine and 13, but will eventually cater for seven to 16-year-olds who need a learning environment tailored to their needs.
Daniela, 48, said: "We're aware that what we are doing is very new and very innovative and we want to make sure that we get the fundamentals absolutely right first."
Inspiration to start up the school stemmed from the pair's own personal experiences.
"We've both got children who struggle for different reasons but the same approach will work for both of them," said mother-of-four Emma, 49, who is married to Nigel.
"We wanted to create an empathetic and accepting learning environment."
But research revealed huge demand for a school like Beech Lodge.
Temporary planning permission was granted by Maidenhead development control panel at a meeting at the town hall on Wednesday.
Daniela, who is an adoptive parent along with her partner, property developer Michael Shanly, was present for the decision.
"I was delighted," she said. "It was a great feeling."
At Beech Lodge School, children with mild learning difficulties or who come from difficult backgrounds will be able to enjoy a 'home from home' environment.
The building will contain an assembly hall, kitchen classroom for cookery, three regular classrooms and a one-to-one room for things like speech and language therapy.
It has space for a garden, and its rural location and close proximity to Berkshire College of Agriculture, means outdoor learning, forest school activities and work with animals could all be possible.
Beech Lodge will be a registered ASDAN (Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network) centre, allowing it to offer more vocational subjects.
Children will sit exams which are appropriate for them and compile a portfolio of work to help build a sense of achievement.
Admission will be decided through an assessment process, and it will be a fee-paying school but the exact amount has not been set.
The school will start with five full-time staff as well as visiting specialists.
If work goes to plan it could open in January.
Development and set up costs have been funded by the Shanly Foundation.
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