The world’s first IB special autism school building opens in Cambridge

The world’s first International Baccalaureate (IB) special autism school building has officially opened its doors, enabling The Cavendish School to accept an additional 50 students this term in Years 3 – 7.  


The school, which started teaching in September 2021, was previously located in temporary accommodation at Girton Glebe Primary School with capacity for just 10 students. The new site means that more families, whose children’s needs cannot be catered for within current state provision in the county, will be able to access the specialist provision.


Stephanie Smith, Deputy Headteacher, said: “It is tremendously exciting to finally move into our new school building, especially after watching the progress of the construction work during the past 12 months. The state of the art building reflects our vision of providing a safe, nurturing and inclusive space for our students to access their learning; enabling us to deliver specialist education for autistic students in the county, where they have not been able to thrive in a mainstream school.”


Work on Cambridgeshire’s first state maintained special free school provision for young people with autism began in January 2021, and has been designed to provide optimal education environments for students with autism. Manufactured off-site in Northern Ireland by The McAvoy Group, the building is constructed from connected modules and offers sensory breakout rooms, a life skills room, a horticultural space and wider corridors to ensure that students do not feel claustrophobic when moving around the school site.


Drawing on the success of the co-located mainstream schools, Impington Village College and Impington International College, the school will provide opportunities for the students, through shared use of support staff and bespoke extra-curricular activities. At full capacity, the school will provide specialist provision for up to 100 autistic students, in Year 3 – 13.


This week, students and their families will familiarise themselves with their new building and meet their new teachers and support staff to ease the transition into their new academic environment. During their time at the school, students will pursue the IB programmes and accredited qualifications, alongside specific individual therapies or interventions, provided by dedicated onsite specialists in Occupational and Speech and Language Therapy. Each of the programmes allow teachers to personalise learning to the unique abilities of their students and the curriculum model allows for a wide range of activities including: Forest School, Lego-based therapy and life skills learning, to support the school’s mission of helping students develop into independent adults.


Lucy Scott, CEO of Eastern Learning Alliance – a multi-academy trust of which The Cavendish School is a member of – said: “I am delighted that our concept of a school that breaks down the educational barriers that autistic students face has finally become a reality after years of planning, research and preparation. Through the knowledge and expertise of team, The Cavendish School will deliver an exemplary education provision for students with Educational Health Care Plans to help them flourish and thrive as healthy, happy individuals.”