Pupils have enjoyed a sneak preview of their new school in Stevenage, which is being built by Herts County Council.

A £15.8m project to build a new state-of-the-art school for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is taking shape within the grounds of the existing Valley School.

On Monday, October 17, selected pupils from The Valley joined county councillors and project officers to get up close to the construction of their new school – which is due to be completed in the autumn term next year.

The Comet: CGI of how the rebuilt Valley School in Stevenage will lookCGI of how the rebuilt Valley School in Stevenage will look (Image: Herts County Council/Saunders Boston)

The development forms part of HCC’s planned investment in SEND, which equates to more than £50m over the next three years.  

Cllr Terry Douris, executive member for education, skills and lifelong learning, said: “The new building and facilities for this school reflects our commitment to making sure that every child and young person continues to have access to a good school, where they can be supported to achieve their full potential.

“We have used the opportunity of the new build to increase the number of places available, helping us to meet the increasing need for special education in Hertfordshire and make sure that children and young people are receiving the right support, at the right time, in the right place. It’s a fantastic investment for the young people of Hertfordshire and I pay my thanks to everyone who has been involved.”

The Comet: CGI of how the rebuilt Valley School in Stevenage will lookCGI of how the rebuilt Valley School in Stevenage will look (Image: Herts County Council/Saunders Boston)

On the day, six pupils from the school mingled with county councillors who’d had a role in planning and allocating the funding required to invest in Stevenage’s new SEND school, as well as project officers and architects. 

Headteacher at The Valley, David Pearce, said: “The children are watching the time-lapse cameras and looking through the viewing panels, seeing their new school being built. They’re looking forward to November when they’ll be able to see the frame going up and the school taking shape – they’re already talking about where their classrooms will be, and their chance to visit the site and the project team.

“It’s really exciting for the students and the whole of the school community.  As the headteacher it is amazing to be able to complement our high-quality teaching with a learning environment that our young people can really enjoy. It is very special. This is giving the students, teachers and support staff the best of the best and they absolutely deserve it!”

The Valley School buildings had originally been designed to be used by a mainstream secondary school, which then became a SEND school in 1991.

“The current building is coming to the end of its serviceable life, with maintenance costs increasing,” explains Cllr Bob Deering, cabinet member for resources.

“This is why we took this opportunity to invest in a new purpose-built school suitable for children with SEND which, through its enhanced environmental credentials, will be much more sustainable and efficient to run and maintain in the future.”

Once built, the new school will be net zero carbon in operation, will generate its own electricity onsite and will only use electricity. 

The new purpose-built school has been designed through ongoing consultation with teaching staff, to meet the needs of the current pupils.

During the pandemic, classes had been grouped together in their school years; this was found to be advantageous to supporting the children more closely.

This has now become a dominant design feature, with the year group pods situated around two central courtyards – each with their own toilets and areas for group work. There is also a high-ceilinged multi-use space the school can use for sports, dining and drama.