A HUGE difference has been made to the lives of special educational needs pupils who have moved into ‘one of the best school buildings in Portsmouth’ – a newly-refurbished £3.2m vocational centre.
Pupils, teachers, dignitaries and councillors were delighted to officially open the brand-new Harbour Vocational Centre in Cosham.
It is a specially-modified building that allows pupils from The Harbour School’s former Fratton site to study vocational subjects like mechanics, catering, construction, animal care and hair and beauty to a high standard.
The refurbishment of the former Vanguard Centre is thanks to investment from Portsmouth City Council, which over the last three-to-four years said it has been able to invest more than £11m into special educational needs and disabilities education.
Kim Budd, assistant headteacher at the Harbour Vocational Centre, said: ‘We did the best we could at the old site but the new facilities mean we can deliver courses to a much higher level.
‘We were trying to deliver mechanics in a classroom with a lawnmower in Fratton because you can’t fit a car into the classroom.
‘We’ve now got a beautiful, new mechanics space where there’s a workshop and hydraulic lifts for vehicles.
‘Our old kitchen had domestic cookers, now we have industrial ones, so we can teach to a catering standard whereas before it was home-cooking skills.’
Refurbishment began in February. There are three other Harbour School sites at Cosham, Tipner and Stamshaw.
During his speech at the ceremony, pupil Brandon Clarke, 15, who studies health and social care and catering, said: ‘I have anxiety issues and the old building felt very stressful for me because of the terrible conditions, damage and bad memories.
‘This new building feels more like a college and seems so much more grown up and welcoming.
‘It’s made a massive impact to me personally and I know other students are now attending so much more.’
Ian Hunkin, headteacher of all Harbour Schools, added: ‘Here, it’s about helping young people re-engage in education, build trust again in education and adults and go on to get some vocational qualifications alongside their English, maths and emotional literacy.
‘The new building is fantastic – we have genuinely gone from one of the worst school buildings in Portsmouth to one of the best.’
The Harbour Schools are for pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs, and some young people with medical needs, who struggle to cope in mainstream schools. The new vocational centre is for 15-16-year-olds.