Smiles in every classroom at Kisharon’s £13.5m campus
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Smiles in every classroom at Kisharon’s £13.5m campus

The project has taken two years to complete and includes nine classrooms, each with height adjustable desks, interactive screens, break out areas and specialist lighting.

Kisharon's Wohl Campus and its Noe School headteacher Sora Kopfstein
Kisharon's Wohl Campus and its Noe School headteacher Sora Kopfstein

“Imagine saying to a special needs pupil after six months in lockdown: Today, you’re going to be swimming with dolphins!” Dimming the lights, Richard Franklin, Kisharon’s chief executive,
gestures towards a hydrotherapy pool in which specialist lighting projections and seabed murals have been installed to stimulate creativity and mobility
.

Within seconds, dolphins begin gliding smoothly across the water. “We’ve never had access to such pioneering technology – it’s a real game changer!” 

Franklin is leading a tour of the newly-opened Kisharon Noe School for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) or complex needs. Every inch of the 25,000 sq ft building in Hendon exhibits unparalleled innovation, filled with £1.5million worth of specialist equipment. 

With facilities designed to develop pupils’ skills to live as independently as possible, Franklin demonstrates a food tech space with adjustable worktop heights and ovens with slide and hide doors designed for young people using wheelchairs.” There are even environmentally-friendly spaces for
growing vegetables outdoors.

The £13.5m project has taken two years to complete and includes nine classrooms, each with height adjustable desks, interactive screens, break out areas and specialist lighting. Each space has been carefully planned around the needs of the pupils. A music therapy room boasts modern equipment in a soundproofed setting. Franklin points to the radiator: “The covers have specifically been designed to ensure no child can burn themselves.”

Pupil exploring the Kisharon Wohl Campus and Noe School playground

The future is equally exciting. A library designed to house 5D virtual reality is set to be installed in 2021. On the final leg of the tour, Franklin passes a teacher: “What’s been the highlight of your week?” he asks. “It’s definitely been seeing the children back. We can’t wait to get started!”

Back in the headteacher’s office, that enthusiasm for learning is evident, although it has certainly not been an easy ride. “This is undoubtedly the most challenging time any headteacher has ever experienced or even imagined experiencing,” explains Sora Kopfstein, headteacher of Kisharon Noe School.“It’s a completely unique experience to open a school during Covid-19. It’s a new world and a new way of working. Sadly, it’s also so contrary to the way you want to work with children,” she adds. 

Pupils will be split into bubbles for the duration of the school day. In classroom settings, they will all face frontwards and be spaced out, where appropriate. 

Richard Franklin is chief executive of Kisharon

“People just aren’t used to being in a school environment and enjoying the freedom of mixing. It’s a sociable environment – we work together as a team,” Kopfstein continues. “It’s sad for the children. There’s no socialising between classes – your best friends could be in a different class.”

The government guidance for SEND schools does, however, allow for certain flexibilities. “Teachers should sit next to pupils, rather than opposite them. But you cannot feed a child who cannot feed themselves from the side,” Kopfstein explains.

The senior leadership team have clearly taken their responsibilities seriously and planned for every possible eventuality to keep their pupils and staff safe.  “Anxiety is very common among children with autism at the best of times, which can cause behavioural problems in the school. Our job is therefore to demonstrate that these measures will keep themselves, their parents and their teachers safe.”

With the start of a new term, there is excitement in every corridor. In time, the learning disabilities charity will educate 72 pupils in the new school setting – more than double the 33 at the former site in Golders Green.

“When I met Sara in 2013, she made it very clear she wanted a building that would enable her staff to deliver the highest possible standards for pupils,” concludes Franklin. “We can now proudly say we’ve delivered on that aspiration.”

 

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