Monday was the landmark day when the doors opened at the outstanding new Kisharon Wohl Campus and Kisharon Noé School.
The Free School in Hendon is one of the most advanced of its kind for pupils with SEND or complex needs and is a flagship for Kisharon’s mission of ensuring equal opportunities for people with learning disabilities.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis nailed home the mezuzah on the front door and, accompanied by his wife, Valerie, had a tour of the new facilities.
With specialist and experienced staff, including an in-house team of therapists, the school will strive to enable pupils to develop skills to live as independently as possible – aided by the most advanced educational resources in environmentally-sensitive surroundings.
The £13.5 million project which took two years to complete and five years from conception to opening, combines modern facilities within a Grade II listed setting. It includes nine classrooms each with height-adjustable desks, interactive screens, break out areas, specialist lighting and a variety of outdoor spaces to meet different ages and needs. A cutting-edge hydrotherapy pool with light settings and seabed murals has been built to stimulate imagination, creativity and mobility. Facilities include a sensory stimulation room, a dedicated area for rebound therapy, physiotherapy rooms and a food tech space with adjustable worktop heights and slide and hide door ovens designed for young people using wheelchairs.
A music therapy room boasts modern equipment in a soundproof setting as well as a library designed to house 5D virtual reality which is due to be installed in 2021. Calming lilac and blue colours on acoustic boards have been installed to allow for light and sound sensitivity, particularly for children with autism. The environmentally-friendly space created on the first-floor roof houses a vegetable growing area. Teaching and therapy spaces have hoist tracking in the ceiling and hygiene rooms are tailored for different ages.
Chief Executive, Richard Franklin says, “The Wohl Campus and Kisharon Noé School is the strongest possible statement of trust from our community in Kisharon’s ability to deliver the very best for future generations to overcome the challenges of living with learning disabilities.”
Headteacher Sora Kopfstein has a clear vision of excellence for teachers and therapists. Each is committed to challenging, supporting and educating every pupil with learning disabilities to enjoy their school years, to achieve success and leave Kisharon School prepared for adult life.
She says: “Our pupils are the heart of our school. We grow with them and they grow with us. Kisharon pupils may have moderate, severe or profound and multiple learning disabilities and we are here to support every pupil to achieve their full potential and maximise their independence. Our approach to education is based on our core values and beliefs. We value every pupil as an individual and we believe that emotional wellbeing is essential to developing academic success. I am so excited to welcome new and current students to our new school and to be able to enhance the education we were previously offering.”
The contrast from Kisharon’s early beginnings could not be more marked. Chairman Philip Goldberg said: “When I first became involved, Kisharon only ran a very small school and had just opened a centre for young adults. I could not have imagined then where the charity would be now – and to see this specially designed state-of-the-art school open is a very emotional day for me.”
Chair of Governors at Kisharon School and a Trustee, Emma Castleton, whose son Elias will attend the school, has been a driving force and advocate for improved facilities for children with complex needs. “This is such an exciting time for both Kisharon and the wider special education community. We are truly grateful to all our donors, trustees and the team who enabled us to build our school which will allow students with special educational needs a beautiful environment in which to learn. I look forward to seeing all the pupils flourish.”
Kisharon Trustee, Andrew Loftus commented, “I am enormously grateful to the huge effort of the superb team we put together, the architects, planning advisers, consultants, builders, project manager, school governors and Kisharon professionals, who all played their part in ensuring that the school was completed on time and, most importantly, on budget.
“Parents of both existing and prospective pupils I have shown round have told me they never imagined their children would be given an environment such as this. The teachers are enthused and excited by how much more they will be able to provide for the pupils, educationally, technologically and physically. From our key donors this is an acknowledgement that their money has been well spent. I can’t wait to see the look on the children’s faces when they come to their new school for the first time, but even more importantly seeing the results and benefits over the coming years.
“People from outside the organisation embraced our mission and collaborated with us, like the eminent planning lawyer, with no prior connection either to Kisharon or the Jewish community, who became so taken by what we were trying to do that he insisted on not charging for his services. That sense of purpose and pride permeated throughout the professional team, who accepted that no detail was too minor, and regularly went the extra mile, and beyond, to find solutions that were creative and cost effective. That sense of purpose was seen too in the incredible encouragement and generous support of our donors.
“Our mantra during the project was to ensure that we weren’t moving an old school into a new building. That doesn’t end with the opening of the school. So much is changing in the world of SEND, through technology, communication and collaboration. I am immensely proud and confident that we have created a school that is armed and ready to continuously adapt, develop and provide the best possible opportunities for the children who will go there.”<< Back