Recently my colleague, Kate, and I visited Beatrice Tate School in Tower Hamlets. This is a special school for pupils with severe or profound and multiple learning difficulties. The school moved into a brand new building last year, and we were keen to see how they had settled in.
We could tell that the headteacher, Alan Black, is proud of the building, and we soon saw why! It can’t be easy to design a school suitable for pupils whose needs vary so drastically, but Alan and the architects were clearly ambitious in their plans.
The list of stand-out features is impressive: a trampoline room allows less-mobile pupils to experience movement; studio rooms with high-tech sound systems enable teachers to enhance learning with music; and touch screen computers allow pupils to engage with technology.
There is a hydrotherapy pool, with lighting that can be altered to transform the atmosphere. This means that the pool can suit a variety of individual needs on any given day. It has also been carefully designed to be accessible to all, with a hoist running from a large changing room all the way into the pool.
However, the subtle touches in the building are no less remarkable. Decoration is neutral to avoid distraction to pupils; floors in classrooms and hallways are in different colours to aid visually impaired pupils; and appliances in the food technology room are chosen carefully to mirror those that pupils might have at home.
The school’s shiny new exterior marks it out from its surroundings, and the hydrotherapy pool and trampoline room add a ‘wow’ factor. However, it was the attention to detail and focus on individual needs that really blew us away.