A world first in Cambridge: IB special autism school to open in 2021

The Cavendish School, the world’s first International Baccalaureate (IB) special autism school is set to open on the outskirts of Cambridge in Autumn 2021. Based in Impington, The Cavendish School will also be Cambridgeshire’s first state maintained special free school provision for young people with autism.

Initially admitting up to 40 students in Years 3 to 7, intake at the school will grow year on year, to a maximum capacity of 80 students from Year 3 to 13. The Cavendish School will be accessible and available to many families who cannot be catered for within current state provision in the county.

Ryan Kelsall, Deputy CEO of The Learning Alliance – a new multi-academy trust of which The Cavendish School is a member – said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be able to announce the plans for The Cavendish School to the public. Through our bespoke curriculum and teaching methodology, we will provide the educational environment that young people with autism need to thrive and succeed when their needs cannot be met in a mainstream school.

“The Cavendish School will celebrate diversity and accept, respect and recognise neurological and developmental differences to support each individual student through a differentiated programme that builds and focuses on their skills. Through the knowledge and expertise of The Learning Alliance, The Cavendish School will deliver exemplary education provision for students with Educational Health Care Plans.”

The first of its kind, The Cavendish School will be an IB World School, which means that it will follow the IB programmes and accredited qualifications, alongside specific therapies or interventions as appropriate for individuals. In an ever-changing world, the IB equips students with the skills, confidence and lifelong learning needed to thrive and make a difference. Each of the programme frameworks allows teachers to personalise learning to the unique abilities of their students.

Leah Cooper, Assistant Principal for SEND/PP and SENCo at the co-located Impington Village College, currently seconded to The Cavendish School, said: “Through our IB offering, we will provide our students with the skills and knowledge they need to become globally aware citizens, achieve a range of accredited qualifications and make measurable progress towards their own personal outcomes. Our individualised approach will ensure that we are offering the support and guidance needed to all who study with us, as well as helping families throughout the process. We will be drawing upon the success of our co-located mainstream schools (Impington Village College and Impington International College) to provide excellent opportunities for the students, through shared use of support staff and bespoke extra-curricular activities.”

At the heart of The Cavendish School will be relationships and the important ways in which they can support the growth of each student. Throughout the planning stages for the school, the team has drawn on the latest research into autism and used its expertise in education and experience of working with young people with autism and their families. Beyond high-quality teaching, therapeutic support will be offered, so that all students have full access to the curriculum, to learn and to achieve. The Cavendish School will offer students the opportunity for multidisciplinary support, which will be carefully matched to the explicit needs of the individual student.

Julie Bailey, Chair of Governors at The Cavendish School and doctoral researcher at the Faculty of Education within the University of Cambridge, said: “The Cavendish School aspires to remove the barriers to inclusion and achievement that many young people with autism face in their education. We’ve built on the best of current provision and the very latest research throughout the design and planning stages. The Cavendish School is set to have a transformative impact, giving its pupils an educational environment in which they will thrive.”

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