NEW sensory changing rooms, designed to ease disabled children into the swimming pool environment, have been opened at a school.

The innovative facilities, which were created and funded by the children’s charity Merlin’s Magic Wand for the Victoria Education Centre in Poole, will help disabled students adjust from the outside world to the swimming pool with interactive flooring and atmospheric lighting.

They were unveiled at an event attended by Harry Redknapp and Nick Ashley-Cooper, the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury, who supports the charity which runs the school, Livability.

Simon Brown, head teacher of Victoria Education Centre, said: “As a school, we were very fortunate to have a wonderful new pool which opened in September 2013.

“The pool itself is amazing but the changing rooms were clinical in appearance with everything painted white. Some of our students have enjoyed visits to the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth, and so when Merlin’s Magic Wand suggested a Sea Life theme for the changing rooms we were very keen.

“This project has been a fantastic opportunity for our students to gain an incredible multi-sensory changing area, and their smiles really show us all that Merlin’s Magic Wand really have brought the magic to the children.”

The changing rooms are designed to act like a sensory air lock, and have been fitted with electronic Reactrix technology which projects moving aquamarine and seaside scenes onto the walls and flooring. A surf shack-style lift takes students down to the changing area.

Gemma Milne, lead occupational therapist for the school, explained how the new changing facilities will help students with severe learning difficulties.

“This new technology helps the students to anticipate the activity ahead. We use ‘objects of reference’ around the school to prepare our students for activities and the interactive sounds, lights and visuals will prepare the students for their sensory swimming experience.”

Sandra Hazel, charity manager for Merlin’s Magic Wand, said: “We are delighted that the children of Victoria Education Centre will be able to experience first-hand the magic of Merlin.

“Creating a fun environment with the sensory elements of the project will inspire them and help the children to achieve their educational goals.”