Children and staff from two South Bristol schools moved in to their £13.2 million new buildings immediately following the Easter break.
State-of-the-art premises have been created for Merchants’ Academy Primary and Venturers’ Academy alongside Merchants’ Academy Secondary in South Bristol.
The development means that students at Venturers’ Academy, a special school for children with autism, will share a campus with students at the mainstream schools, opening up additional opportunities and experiences for them.
Trystan Williams, Principal of Venturers’ Academy and Executive Lead for Primary and Specialist Schools at Venturers Trust, said the co-location would benefit all learners and staff. The site will also incorporate the Trust’s new Bradbury Centre, which will offer unprecedented research and training opportunities for teachers and others working with vulnerable, complex and disadvantaged students.
“This is such an exciting time for our schools, the Trust, the city of Bristol and the wider region,” said Mr Williams. “These wonderful new facilities are a real investment in the people who live here. We are delighted to be playing our part in meeting the needs of young people and their families.”
The new schools at Hareclive Road have been built by Galliford Try. The primary school has 14 classrooms, a dance studio, a spacious hall and a library. The special school, whose students are aged up to 16, includes a sports hall, science lab and rooms for art and design technology, life skills and music as well as classrooms, purpose-built dedicated therapy rooms and multiple breakout spaces.
The primary school has a bright colour scheme to stimulate curiosity and inquiring minds, while the special school is decorated in more muted colours to meet the children’s needs.
“Creativity and innovation are at the heart of our thinking. The whole space is absolutely tremendous,” said Mr Williams.
Each school has its own outdoor areas, which have been designed to maximise the use of space. There are plans for forest school provision on site and for a multi-use games area.
The new buildings are ready just in time for Venturers’ Academy to open its post-16 provision from September, enabling the school to continue the rapid expansion it has had since it launched in 2015.
Venturers’ Academy has grown from 54 students on opening to an expected 220 in the next academic year while staff numbers have risen from 14 to more than 150. The school takes students with Education and Health Care Plans from across four local authority areas – Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset.
A second site, Venturers’ Academy St Anne’s Park, opened alongside another Trust primary, the Kingfisher School in central Bristol, in 2019.
Now Venturers Trust is working with Bristol City Council on a plan to welcome another 50 children from September by accommodating Early Years and Key Stage 1 pupils at Venturers’ Academy’s old site in Withywood Road. Initially, this will be in buildings being given a £300,000 refurbishment but a bid will be made to the Education and Skills Funding Agency for another new school.
The move will help address the continuing issue in the city of demand for special school places outstripping supply.
“Our Trust is proud to be playing its part in supporting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people in the region,” said Mr Williams.
“The Bradbury Centre, which has been funded by a generous charitable donation, will play a significant role in the Venturers Trust Institute of Education, which we intend to turn into a centre of excellence for sharing good practice.
“It will include soundproofed observation galleries to allow unobtrusive focus on children and staff in a classroom, therapy room and outdoor space.
“The involvement and support of the University of Bristol, co-sponsor of Venturers Trust alongside the Society of Merchant Venturers, will enhance our provision, which we look forward to developing through our new Teaching School Hub.”
Pictured: (L-R) Stuart Woodburn, Principal of Merchants’ Academy Primary; and Steven Hobden, Head of School for Venturers’ Academy