Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal today (Friday 22 October) officially opened the Sycamore Building at Fairmead School in Yeovil and toured the first-class facilities being enjoyed by students, staff and the local community.
The new school building was made possible by an investment of £6.85m by Somerset County Council. Completed in the summer holiday ready for the start of the 2021/22 academic year, the building replaces six classrooms, creates a further six classrooms and provides a new state-of-the-art sports facility.
Fairmead School caters for children and young people aged between four and 19 with Moderate Learning Difficulties and Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The new classrooms allow for a 40% growth in pupil admissions from 100 to 140.
On arrival, The Princess Royal was met by the Deputy Lieutenant for Somerset, Mrs Lucilla Nelson, who introduced headteacher Mrs Tracy Felstead, along with staff, students and representatives from Somerset County Council before starting a tour.
As part of the guided tour, Her Royal Highness entered live lessons to see students learning science, mathematics and life skills. The Princess was also given a demonstration of the Immersive Experience Room, which provides students with dynamic sensory and learning experiences. With the touch of a button, Her Royal Highness and students were transported from riding horseback to outer space.
The Princess Royal then watched a special performance by the school choir who signed and sang a version of ‘This is Me’ from the film The Greatest Showman before unveiling a commemorative plaque to mark the visit.
Tracy Felstead, headteacher of Fairmead School, said: “Her Royal Highness’s visit has been the highlight of our school year. I could not think of a more fitting way to mark the start of this exciting new era for our school and our community. We are all so delighted with the new modern, bright and calm new learning environments that this project has created.
“It was a privilege to meet The Princess and I was pleased to have the opportunity to thank her on behalf of all the staff and students for taking the time to visit us.”
Students shared in the excitement and joy of the occasion and said that they were “happy” and “honoured” that a member of the Royal Family had made the trip to their school in Somerset.
Cllr Frances Nicholson, Lead Member for Children’s Services at Somerset County Council, said: “It is exciting to see all the changes at Fairmead School. The new building is a valuable facility and will really support Somerset’s children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities and their families.
“This is the latest in a series of key projects to secure strong local educational provision for children and young people with complex needs for many years to come, and I look forward to seeing how the children and young people at Fairmead enjoy, and benefit from, their new facilities.”
Somerset County Council-appointed UK Construction West, ISG, was the contractor for the project.