EDUCATION: End of an era for 'special' school

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WHEN Trudy Duffield turns the lights off and locks the doors of St George's School for the last time, she says she will do it with a smile on her face.

WHEN Trudy Duffield turns the lights off and locks the doors of St George's School for the last time, she says she will do it with a smile on her face.Her final act at one of Peterborough's most respected special schools will fill the acting headteacher more with happiness than sadness.

For it will mark a new dawn in the teaching of special needs pupils in the city.

After being in the planning stage for more than two years, St George's School, Dogsthorpe, is to merge with Clayton School, in Orton Goldhay.

Pupils at St George's will move to the Clayton site, where a 3.5 million new school – Phoenix Clayton – will open in September.

Mrs Duffield said: "We are determined to celebrate. The new Phoenix Clayton School's facilities will be wonderful, and we also want to mark the success of the pupils and the staff."

In the last 33 years, hundreds of pupils have passed through its gates, educating not only the youngsters but also the people of Peterborough. Attitudes to the disabled have changed dramatically in that time, and St George's is rightly proud of its record.

Former headteacher Brian Rudgley, who retired in 2003 after 28 years at the school, said: "I think the school's legacy will be the way it has changed how people in Peterborough look upon children with learning difficulties.

"There was a time when parents did not want to go out with their children. Nowadays, they can hold their heads up and be part of the community.

"The children have also received the kind of education which means they can live in the community.

"Then there's the staff, who have made their careers here."

St George's, in Lawn Avenue, first opened in 1959 as a training centre for young people and adults with learning difficulties.

But in the 1960s, there was an overhaul of the country's education system and, in 1971, St George's became a special needs school.

In that time, it has seen 352 pupils go through its doors and there have been some notable achievements.

St George's was one of the first special schools in the country to pilot a scheme to allow schools to organise their own budgets, while in the '80s it was instrumental in setting up a further education scheme for young people with learning dificulties to continue their studies at Peterborough Regional College.

In 1989, the school sent a team of 10 pupils to the Special Olympics, in Leicester.

In 1995, Ofsted inspectors praised the "hard working team of dedicated staff", while, in 1999, they again echoed those comments, saying "pupils' attitudes, behaviour and personal development are good".

In 2003, the school won an Investors In People award in recognition of its commitment to staff training.

Garden party to mark end of an era

TO mark the closure of St George's, in Dogsthorpe, there will be a garden party at the school.

The event takes place on Wednesday, July 7, for pupils, their parents and for staff.

On Saturday, July 10, there will be an open day for past pupils and teachers. Local people are also invited.

Former headteacher Brian Rudgley, who is organising the events, is also looking for any old pictures people may have of the school so they can be put on display.

Anyone who wants to attend the celebrations on July 10 should write to him at St George's School, Lawn Avenue, Dogsthorpe, Peterborough, PE1 3RB.

Currently, St George's has 36 pupils. They and the 45 staff will all make the switch to the Phoenix Clayton School, which will be able to educate 75 youngsters.

St George's acting headteacher Trudy Duffield will become one of the deputy headteachers.

Phil Pike, from Willoughby Special School in Bourne, Lincolnshire, will be the headteacher. Mr Pike is a former teacher at St George's.