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New special school plans approved at site of Wednesbury fire

A new school to cater for more than 120 children with special educational needs will be built on an arson-hit Wednesbury building.

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The aftermath of the fire that destroyed the former Manor High building

Planners at Sandwell Council have given the green light for the new Elm Tree Academy to be created on part of the former Manor High School site on Friar Park Road.

It will cater for 126 children with autistic spectrum disorder and moderate learning difficulties aged between five and 11.

The site was previously the home of Manor High School until it was closed in 2010. It then became Phoenix Collegiate School, which was shut in 2015.

It has lain empty ever since but suffered from arson attacks, vandalism and anti-social behaviour. In 2019, dozens of firefighters battled for hours as an inferno ripped through one of the existing buildings.

Manor High before it burnt down

Elm Tree Academy will be situated next to High Point Academy, which is currently being built on the site and will serve secondary school age children.

It will be run by Sandwell-based Victoria Academies Trust, which has nine other schools in the West Midlands including Victoria Park Primary and Devonshire Junior and Infant academies in Smethwick.

Planning agents DLA Architecture said: “This application is for a building of educational and architectural significance which will transform the delivery of learning in its student catchment area.

High Point Academy is already being built next door
An artist's impression of the proposed Elm Tree Academy. Image: DLA Architecture

“The proposed design has been developed jointly with the DfE, Victoria Academies Trust and the local authority to meet their vision and has been subject to ongoing discussions with the wider community and all stakeholders to ensure good building design.

“The rigorous approach has produced a proposal which will enhance the standard of students’ education, improve the skills of the workforce and provide a genuine community and education facility and asset for generations to come.”

When the plans for the school were put forward earlier this year, they were welcomed by council bosses.

Councillor Simon Hackett said: “I have been told by parents we need a seamless progression for children with special education needs into a high school also designed to provide the support they need.

“We haven’t had this type of provision in this part of Sandwell before and it will be welcomed by pupils and mums and dads.

“I’ve campaigned for sometime to bring this site back into use and I’m really pleased this is now moving forward.”

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