An appeal has been launched to raise £220,000 to improve the educational facilities of young people with special needs in Fylde – and the Express is backing it all the way.
Pear Tree School, Kirkham provides places for children and young people with severe or profound and multiple learning difficulties.
Of its current roll of 77 two to 19-year-olds, 14 are aged from 16 to 19 – and the youngsters on the brink of adulthood have long outgrown the space available for their specific needs.
Now, Kirkham Hall, a building within the grounds of Pear Tree in Station Road has become available and the school want to make the most of it to provide the facilities necessary for their older students – but the public’s help is required to raise the required cash.
Along with the Express, Fylde MP Mark Menzies is giving his support to the fund-raising drive.
If the money is forthcoming, the hope is that the new facilities could be available for use in September next year.
“It really is vital that we find more space for our 16- to 19-year old students and this offers the ideal opportunity,” said Pear Tree headteacher Lesley Sullivan.
“Kirkham Hall is a former training centre for Lancashire social services and the County Council has said that we can have the building to use as we wish, but any improvements to it would need to be done at our own expense.
“As it is next the school, it would an ideal way to provide more space for the older students but we need thousands of pounds to make that happen.
“We can find around £280,000 ourselves from various sources, but it would cost £100,000 on top of that to refurbish the building and then we would be restricted by the building’s design and current plumbing to what we feel would hardly be an ideal solution. Ideally, we want to demolish the building and replace it to a layout fit for 21st century education, but that would cost a total of £500,000 – £220,000 of top of the £280,000 we will be able to source ourselves.
“I know it is a lot to ask people but we really need their help to make this happen and we hope the public and organisations throughout Fylde will give generously to help us make sure we can maintain the level of education required for our students.”
As well as providing much more space for the students and their equipment such as wheelchairs, the development will also include interactive whiteboards and other facilities essential to modern learning.
Lesley added: “The 16 to 19-year-olds are at a crucial stage of their lives and we need to provide them with the best possible facilities.”
Mr Menzies said: “I am extremely proud of having a school like Pear Tree in Fylde, which offers unmatched support to the most vulnerable young people in our community.
“Through my involvement as patron of the Ormerod Trust I am well aware of the vital contribution the school makes to the lives of disabled youngsters in the Fylde area and beyond. While the school does receive some financial support from the local authority, the capital needed for a project like this one means Pear Tree is in desperate need of kind donations from local businesses and generous individuals.
“While the staff do their best to look after 16 to 19 year olds in some school out-buildings currently, the facilities are woefully inadequate when it comes to housing 14 fully-grown young people whose special needs require a wide range of equipment which takes up a lot of space.
“The new block would provide the space needed for them to move around during classes and give them the facilities they deserve to learn and gain independence.
“I believe that with the help of the Express’s generous readers we can crack this appeal in record time.”
“The current building is in such a poor state that it needs knocking down and starting again so we can provide proper facilities for our young people, It was recently broken into and vandalised and is cold and damp.
“It would need completely re-wiring and re-plumbing and the make-up of the inside of the building is such that it is completely inappropriate for refurbishment.
“So I am asking people to dig deep and donate what they can so Pear Tree can continue its reputation for providing excellent learning with the highest quality facilities for Fylde coast youngsters.”
If the project is successful, the intention is to make the bungalow currently housing the 16- to 19-year-old students – a former garage converted for ‘temporary’ use more than 20 years ago – into a meeting room for local organisations.
Pear Tree School, which celebrated its 50th anniversary three years ago, is a registered charity and donations can be made online by clicking onto uk.virginmoneygiving.com/giving/ and then searching for ‘Pear Tree School’ or by post or in person to the school at 29 Station Road, Kirkham, PR4 2HA.