Work Begins on State of the Art School for Autistic Students

Queensmill School will open in Askham Road next September

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Image of new school in Askham Road

Queensmill School

The National Autistic Society



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Work has begun on Thursday October 17 on a new £11 million special school in Shepherd's Bush for pupils with autism.

A ground-breaking ceremony at Askham Road, the site for the new Queensmill School, was overseen by actress and president of the National Autistic Society Jane Asher and pupil 12-year-old Ollie Walsh.

They were also joined by Queensmill’s head teacher Jude Ragan OBE and chair of governors Michael Walsh, Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council’s cabinet member for education Cllr Georgie Cooney, managing director of schools mutual 3BM Andy Rennison and Arnaud Bekaert, managing director of construction for London and south east for Bouygues UK, the main contractor carrying out the building work.

When the new school opens up to 130 pupils with autism, aged two to 19, will all be taught in separate departments under the same roof, providing seamless and continuous education that offers a helpful stability for children with autism.

Since last year, all pupils have been taught together on the same site in Mund Street, West Kensington, but the new school is being designed specifically to cater for autistic students. 
Ms Asher said: " I've known Jude Ragan for many years - both she and the magnificent Queensmill School are beacons of excellence in the world of autism, and I was so excited when she first told me of the plans for the new building. To say that I'm honoured to be part of the ground-breaking ceremony is a vast understatement - to be in on the beginning of something so very special is thrilling!"

The school is expected to be open by September 2014 and unused buildings on the site have already been demolished, paving the way for the start of the new build.

The high-tech school will have spacious classrooms, a garden, playground, wet-room and state-of-the-art inter active sensory room. It will also allow some students to attend an extended school day and offer respite for families, including some overnight respite, giving parents and children to take a short break from each other. This offers welcome relief, rest and support for families and gives children the chance to also have an enjoyable time that is beneficial to their development.

Headteacher of Queensmill School, Jude Ragan OBE, said: " All of our children have severe and complex autism, and as such have a muddled understanding about the world around them, which makes them highly anxious.  They also have sensory sensitivities, which cause them to feel even more fearful and push them at times into fight or flight mode. 

" They need what we call a ‘low-arousal environment’ proven to keep them, along with other strategies that we use, at a calm-alert state in which they are able to learn. This build has been designed according to our very clear low arousal criteria. The new environment will be more suitable for our children and, for the first time, we will have room to build more therapy rooms and specialist areas that will help their education and treatment, as well as specialist training rooms."

The project is being managed and building works coordinated by 3BM - the children’s services mutual set up by former staff from the three councils of Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and H&F.

Queensmill has been rated outstanding by Ofsted in its last two inspections and is accredited by the National Autistic Society. 


October 17, 2013