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Venturers Academy parent Sharon with son Connor

Huge demand for places at Venturers' Academy

All but one of the places at Bristol's first standalone school for children with autism have already been snapped up

Posted by Stephanie Broad | March 29, 2016 | Facilities & buildings

Venturers' Academy, opening in south Bristol this September, will have 49 students aged four to 13. It will grow over two years to take up to 84 children between the ages of four and 16.

The academy, sponsored by the Society of Merchant Venturers and the University of Bristol, will be a lifeline for families who until now have had to face the unsettling challenge of finding new schools once youngsters reach secondary age. 

The new academy will run alongside the all-age mainstream Merchants' Academy, providing opportunities for students to join in with cultural and sporting activities. 

Venturers' Academy will build on the expertise from the highly successful 28-place Autistic Resource Base (ARB) at the Merchants' Academy primary site, which will close.

The Department for Education has given the go-ahead for purpose-built facilities for both Venturers' Academy and Merchants' Academy primary on the secondary site. As these will take up to two years to complete, the new school will initially be housed in a remodelled infant wing of the primary site nearby, with facilities appropriate for children with autism.

The new buildings will include subject specific rooms for science, design technology and art, as well as calming rooms, sensory rooms, music spaces and a dedicated hall and catering area. Students will have their own play areas and be able to take advantage of the acres of fields at Merchants' Academy. 

Anne Burrell, Principal of Merchants' Academy, said Venturers' Academy would help meet the increasing need for high quality provision for children with autism. The rising child population in the city, and improvements in diagnosis, mean that demand for specialist educational provision outstrips demand.

“There is a shortfall in places in Bristol and the surrounding area,” she said. “Our ARB has a waiting list and families have campaigned for a long time for high quality provision without the need for a change of school at the age of 11.

“Venturers' Academy is a wonderful opportunity to create a new school solely for children with autism. It will bring great benefits for children on the autistm spectrum and their families.” 

The school will meet the needs of children across a wide range, from those needing a highly personalised curriculum to those who can access some mainstream classes in the partner Academies, she added.

Colin Skellett, Chair of Governors at Venturers' Academy, and a member of the Society of Merchant Venturers said: “There is a chronic shortage, nationally as well as locally, of places in schools providing specialist support. It is wonderful to be able to say that we are reducing that deficit – and that all but one of the places has already been filled. 

“It is central to the ethos of the Merchant Venturers to support primary and secondary education in areas where there is real need. Venturers' Academy is therefore a natural addition to the group of Merchant Venturer schools.”

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