Pupil referral unit opens in Taunton

Work has been completed on a £2.85m Somerset County Council-funded project to refurbish and repurpose the Holway Centre in Taunton into a full occupation Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) for up to 35 children and young people aged five to 16.

To celebrate the opening of the new unit, an open day is planned to take place on Tuesday 16 November. The local community are invited to drop in between 12pm and 6pm, with an official opening ceremony taking place at 4pm.

The Holway Centre, part of Taunton Deane Partnership College, now benefits from bespoke workshops and practical spaces for the teaching of vocational skills, alongside classrooms for core curriculum subjects including Science, Technology, English, Art and Maths.

PRUs are a type of school that caters for children and young people not able to attend mainstream schools. While pupils are often referred to a PRU if they need a support beyond what their school can provide, PRUs also work with mainstream schools to support children and young people to stay within their settings.

Holway is one of four PRUs in Somerset. Children and young people access PRUs in various ways for differing amounts of time but on any given day, PRUs in Somerset collectively have the capacity to accommodate 273 children and young people.

Somerset County Council has made the investment based on its prediction that demand for specialised school places will continue to rise as housing developments are delivered and the population increases. The refurbishment project will help ensure sufficiency of specialised places for the next ten to 15 years.

Refurbishment of the former primary school building on Byron Road completed over the summer to enable students on site from the start of the 2021/22 academic year.

Councillor Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Lead Member for Children’s Services, said: “I’m very pleased to see work on this project completed on time and on budget, with students already benefiting from the positive learning environment that these new facilities provide.

“Somerset County Council is committed to the delivery of high-quality education to all children across Somerset, whatever their abilities, needs or challenges, providing opportunities for them all to achieve their potential.”

Kim Lawrence, Headteacher at Taunton Deane Partnership College, which includes the Holway Centre, said: “The refurbishment at the Holway Centre is really exciting. The work we do at Taunton Deane Partnership College is always looking at supporting our young people both now and in preparation for their next steps.  Having the opportunity to access fully equipped classrooms and vocational spaces, including a workshop and teaching kitchen, are key to this.  Our staff work hard to meet the needs of children and young people who have often struggled in mainstream settings, and I am pleased that we now have the facilities to help them with this. We look forward to welcoming the local community, as well as colleagues from local schools, through our doors at our open day on 16 November”.

Rob Woolcock, Director at Willmott Dixon, commented: “We are very pleased to have been involved in this project and to support Somerset County Council in its delivery of high-quality education for pupils in Taunton”.