Life Skills Centre

The new Life Skills Centre will support our ambition to deliver outstanding education for all our students, support their lifelong learning and help them fulfil their potential.  The new specialist building will provide the flexibility needed to accommodate students with very complex medical and physical needs. It will be adjacent to the rest of the school, but self-contained, with separate secure access for the learning and community engagement environments.  The main entrance will lead into a new community café, accessible to staff, parents and the local community and businesses. It will play a key role in our future local community engagement plans to benefit both our students and our wider community.

Rutherford School occupies a highly specialised but vital niche in the education market. There are very few meaningful educational and care options for young adults with PMLD and there is no other local provider able to offer the level of education, nursing, and therapies that we provide, which explains why we receive many referrals from well beyond Croydon. The nearest school for children with disabilities (St Giles’ School, Croydon) only caters for students aged 4-19

The main entrance to the Centre will be to the café, which will be accessible to staff, parents and the local community and businesses. It will also be used especially for informal meetings and as a place where visitors can wait for other events. There will be a large central space to ensure access for all young people and staff when using the space as a learning environment. The café will be designed to a commercial standard with recycling facilities and designed in Covid-security (e.g., for cleaning, one way movement etc.). It will provide work experience opportunities for students, operating both in and out of school. It will be our window to the world, designed to be a vibrant and modern area that will highlight the vision of the Life Skills Centre (e.g., with a large screen and gallery area that we can use to celebrate students work and successes).
Most lessons will take place in the main class/session rooms, each of which will have a variety of areas with different types of furniture to support a range of activities such as role play, making, art, quieter areas etc. These fully digitally enabled rooms will resemble a professional, university-type space appropriate for young adults and will be fully accessible for those with disabilities, enabling them to access high quality, state of the art environment. Each will have adjacent storage, changing and kitchenette facilities as well as all required mobility aids (including hoists, medical beds etc.). To provide additional flexibility the two classrooms will be able to be combined into one large space that can be used for larger groups, staff CPD sessions and community groups. These spaces will be fun environments that provide agile learning environments that provide “an educational playground that is intentionally designed to be adjustable, exchangeable and moveable.” Learning spaces will be “designed to support idea generation, collaboration and experimentation… [that] …. showcase how the design of a physical space, as well as the implementation of technology within that space, can shift how people communicate with one another.” (Professor Stephen Heppell, Educationalist)
The Therapy and Sensory rooms will each include a medical bed, hoist, sink and storage and will be designed so that the bed can be moved aside and stored. When not used as a therapy room, these rooms will be able to be transformed into multimedia spaces with projectors for use with gaming, simulation and eye gaze therapy and a green screen for video production. “People with disabilities have long used video games to enhance their mental, social, and physical wellness. These disabled innovators can inspire us to rethink video games as being so much more than simple entertainment. When we recognize these health benefits, we can consider the role that video games may play (literally and metaphorically) in our own self-care routines.” (Anita Mortaloni Director of Accessibility Xbox Microsoft) Sensory rooms will help pupils filter out unwanted stimuli, register and process stimuli, regulate sensations and help to reduce distress. They will be a space that can be interesting and motivating, calming, and stimulating (but not over-stimulating), depending on the students’ needs. These multi-sensory rooms will provide a specialised space that can be easily adapted to control the sensory input and vary the stimuli received (including a Dark/UV Room for visual assessment work).
The new hydrotherapy pool will be tailored to our students’ requirements to ensure an environmentally and user-friendly pool. The pool will be 6m by 4m with a stainless-steel case (for cleaning and safety), with a hoist system designed to support safe hydrotherapy including enough space for a full turning circle for a chair or stretcher type wheelchair. Lighting and temperature controls, the sound system and planted terrace area will all enable high quality therapy to be provided. The pool area and changing rooms will be fully Wi-Fi enabled including guest Wi-Fi access. The pool will have direct access to a private changing area for students and staff with showers and toilet facilities and plenty of storage, including a small laundry area .
The nurses’ office will be adjacent to the therapy room and will include a desk/counter, secure storage, and a secure fridge.
To promote multi-sensory engagement and encourage positive behaviour and emotions, the Centre will include an outdoor space that combines natural stimulators, such as wind and grass, with play equipment that features heightened sounds, textures, and colours. This multi-sensory environment will aim to improve pupil interaction and communication, prevent boredom, and reduce stress. The garden will be accessible from the classrooms and will be fully Wi-Fi enabled. It will be an inspiring environment that promotes biodiversity and helps student to connect with nature. It could include play and rest areas with shelter, a simple amphitheatre to support outdoor teaching and learning, a peaceful natural space to support mental health and well-being and a planting and digging area.
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