A NEW school which has recently opened to cater for both primary and secondary school students.

Ysgol Bryn Derw is a new school in Newport based around a “person-centred approach” according to head teacher Richard Drew.

The school site was previously the Gaer Infant School before its amalgamation with Gaer Junior School in late 2014.

At the moment the school currently has 32 pupils and 24 staff members and teachers - with classes being fairly small so pupils get the focus they need.

For head teacher Richard Drew - who was previously the deputy head of Crownbridge School in Cwmbran and Pontypool - the most important thing for the school is getting the children settled into a new environment.

“We have been so proud of how well the pupils have adapted to their new environment,” he said.

“Change to routine and the unfamiliar can be very difficult for people with autism and the pupils have responded so well to their new classrooms, staff and experiences.”

Mr Drew said the school, Ysgol Bryn Derw – translating as oak hill – is significant.

He said: “The governors had this idea of the pupil’s having their autism as an obstacle to success in their life, which is the hill. The oak tree is them flourishing and growing to them being successful and learning.

“The idea of an autism specific special base has been something which has been needed in the area for a long time.”

Upon entering the school it is obvious that the children are enjoying the environment. Each classroom in the area features a variety of areas including a study area, a relaxing area, a kitchen area and communication area.

As well as the classroom having different areas, there are also wet rooms, a soft play room and a sensory room in both the primary and secondary parts of the school.

Due to the school housing both primary and secondary school pupils, it is split into two sides with two entrances. One is for the younger children and the other is for children of secondary school age.

Mr Drew said having the two entrances is an important feature of the school as children with autism dislike crowds and having two entrances gets them used to where they need to go.

And according to Mr Drew, so far every child has been doing well adapting to the new school.

He said: “A number of families have fed back to us already that their children are more settled and happier in this specialised environment. To be able to have a positive impact not just upon the child’s school day but upon a whole family’s experiences is incredibly rewarding for us all.”

Currently, the oldest children in the school are Year 8 pupils with the maximum age of pupils being 13 – however as the school progresses there will be more children joining the school and it will have children up to the age of 18.

It is expected that the school will be at its full capacity of 48 pupils by spring next year – which Mr Drew said describes as being an exciting experience.

He said: “The school reduces the need for youngsters with complex needs to have to travel outside Newport to access education and the environment is designed to specifically meet their needs.

“In a mainstream setting sometimes the children can have sensory overload but this new facility will cater entirely for their needs. T

“The staff with specific training in this area will meet pupils’ needs and provide the highest standards of education and support ensuring all pupils of all ages attain their potential.”

Speaking about the school and its current progress, Mr Drew says that although Ysgol Bryn Derw is new with new facilities, there is still progress being made in certain areas that will developed for the pupils.

One of these areas is the stage of the old hall within the school. The hall has been split into several rooms but the old area behind the stage is still in need of development.

Mr Drew said that during the next half term there will be an installation of a rebound therapy trampoline room. Other projects the school are looking at include pet therapy, horse-riding therapy and music therapy.

“These will provide opportunities for pupils to develop their physical and communication skills alongside their learning,” said Mr Drew.

In their classrooms, children do not have a specific lesson – but are usually viewed on what they do as a whole and maths and English skills are focused on. However, a particular emphasis is based on communication.

“We have children at all ages and developments here,” said Mr Drew.

“Some of these children can communicate well and have particular skills which they excel in – such as maths.

“However, because we have children from all levels of the spectrum in our classes, there are some children who may struggle with their communication and some are completely non-verbal.

“Because of this we have staff who focus on these pupils and there are one-to-one rooms for children and teachers.”

Speaking of his vision for the school’s future – Mr Drew said: “Pupils are in the process of designing and choosing the school’s logo and motto which will be unveiled later this term.

“We are also looking at setting up a ‘Friends of Ysgol Bryn Derw’ group to help us fund-raise for additional facilities such as minibuses and outdoor play equipment.”