A MULTI-million pound extension to a specialist school in Taunton has been officially opened.

The £4.9million scheme at The Sky Academy, off Pickeridge Close, features six new classrooms, break-out rooms, a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) room, kitchenettes and activity space.

Invited guests from Somerset Council, academy staff and governors, and representatives of the school’s parent trust Cabot Learning Federation attended a cake-cutting ceremony to unveil new facilities.

The Sky Academy is attended by boys with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs and speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and is the only special school of its type in the county.

The expansion has enabled the academy to take pupils from Years 5 and 6 and help increase their chance of long-term success beyond education.

It is part of Somerset Council’s commitment to ensuring children with SEND have specialist support close to where they live.

Work is also underway to build a new special free school in South Somerset, which will open in September 2024 and provide for a further 120 pupils.

Another special free school is planned to open in the Wells area in 2027.

Cllr Tessa Munt, the council's executive lead member for children and families, said “At Somerset Council, we are committed to providing equal learning opportunities to all young people.

"This project has shown our commitment to ensuring all pupils have the opportunity to learn new skills to take into employment.

“During the expansion Willmott Dixon, the main contractor, worked with students to teach them construction skills like bricklaying.

"Following the success of this training, Wilmott Dixon offered one of the Sky Academy students an apprenticeship at another local site, the Digital Innovation Centre in Taunton.

“It is fantastic to see this important project completed, ensuring even more young people in Somerset can benefit from a specialist learning environment close to home.”

Bex Jones, headteacher at The Sky Academy, said: “We are very proud to be at the heart of Somerset's SEND improvement strategy for young people with SEMH needs.

"This new facility has further enabled us to provide the aspirational challenge, nurture and education that Sky has become known for – championing the success and life chances of all children.”