A drive to raise £100,000 is now on after Thanet councillors gave the go ahead for a therapy and education centre for children with complex physical and mental needs at Quex in Birchington.
The project involves moving The Llewellyn School Retreat from its current base in Margate to land at Quex Park.
The school is run by Sara Llewellyn with her husband Phillip from their home in Cliffe Avenue, Margate.
Sara set up the school to provide education for her son Louie and other children in a similar situation after the closure of the Royal School for the Deaf in December 2015. The John Townsend Trust, which ran it, went into administration.
The closure left scores of young people without suitable schooling.
Louie, now 10, was born with a rare chromosome deletion, meaning a small piece is missing from one of the body’s 46 chromosomes.
The missing bit includes genes that are important for Louie’s normal development, which can cause learning difficulties or disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy, Dystonia which causes mini seizures and Craniosynostosis. The chromosome deletion also makes it difficult for Louie to stretch out his hands and feet, like the average person would be able to and growth is a lot slower than other children.
Sara said: “After the closure of the (Royal School for Deaf Children) the local education authority considered placing our son Louie in a maintained school but it was quickly agreed that they could not meet his needs. This was due to the vast amount of equipment he uses daily and also the daily therapies he requires in order to continue his growth and progression, allowing him independence and quality of life.
“In January 2016 we were left with no alternative but to temporarily utilise an outbuilding in our garden and open the doors to other vulnerable children. This has proven a huge success and provided parents with peace of mind that their children are once again within the education system.
“My husband Phillip and I have personally funded the set-up of the school, we have worked hard to meet all the standards required by the Department of Education and are registered as an independent special school.
“Our school is, and will remain, a small independent school but we require bigger premises as we have other children now attending.”
The premises in Margate caters for 14 children with 10 members of staff.
But a new school at Quex, approved this week, will mean expanding and initially taking 20 children and 15 staff. After a period of 5 years a phase 2 would be considered which would involve the addition of further classrooms.
The approval means Sara and Phillip now need to raise the cash to build the school. The bid will be led by the Louie’s Helping Hands charity, initially set up as a fundraising page in 2012 by Louie’s godmother Tania Horn (nee Todd).
The aim was to start raise money to provide Louie with specialist equipment and anything he might need to help him with his everyday development.
Fundraisers included online auctions, organised by Tania, two London marathon runs -one by Louie’s godfather Nathan and the other by Tania – and support from the community.
Louie’s Helping Hands was registered as a charity in 2016 in a bid to provide socialisation, therapies and equipment for many of the children affected by the closure of the Royal School for Deaf Children.
Now the charity will lead the drive to raise building funds and find volunteers to help with the project. A gofundme page has been launched to raise the cash.
Tania said: “Our largest project yet just got very real and exciting, We have a school to build.
“Could you be a fundraiser? Are you a skilled trades man/lady and able to donate your time or materials to help with the build? Perhaps you’d like to be a sponsor?
“If you can help us in anyway please get in touch, we need you. In return we can promise you’ll be part of something amazing and we’ll supply cake!”
The children who will attend the school all have complex conditions such as cerebral palsy, very rare chromosome abnormalities, difficulty swallowing, visually impairment and hearing impairment and often a combination of conditions.
They will receive therapies to enhance their quality of life such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, horse riding therapy, art therapy, play therapy and cooking therapy. The desired outcomes for these children include increased mobility, improved life skills and communication skills, including speech and signing as well as achieving physical milestones.
Part of the garden at the new school site will be designed with disabled swings and other play equipment accessible to disabled children. A scheme is envisaged where access to the disabled play equipment could be provided outside of “school / retreat” hours for disabled children in the community, on application and with access gained by a fob system.