KATIE Charles has been appointed as the Headteacher of Dorset Council’s new school for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

The new school is a cornerstone of the Dorset Centre of Excellence project and is taking shape on the former St Mary’s School site in Shaftesbury. It is currently in a developmental phase, with facilities being created to improve the lives of Dorset children with SEND.

The school will open in 2022, with an initially small cohort of children, which will grow to around 280 students over the next five years.

Ms Charles has worked as a professional scientist and most recently in education. She joins Dorset Council from just across the border in Wiltshire, having had experience of both mainstream and special education during her career.

She said: “I can’t wait to see students enjoying their learning at this wonderful site. Our new school is part of a family of amazing special schools in Dorset and I look forward to joining them in providing even more high quality education provision to meet growing needs.”

Councillor Andrew Parry, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Early Help, said: “I am delighted to welcome Katie to the team.

“We seized the opportunity in April 2021 to create this new SEND school for Dorset and I am proud we’ve come so far in such a short time. These are exciting times for education in Dorset and we are determined to make the county the best place in which to grow up.

“Our ambitious vision of investing in this new school will reduce spending in the longer term because it costs so much more to send a child away for private specialist educational provision.

“It also helps to make sure that our children with special educational needs and/or disabilities have all the training, education and support they need to live as independently as possible as they become adults.”

The school will be recruiting staff as it grows. Jobs will be advertised on the Dorset Council Jobs website in the coming weeks.

The new school is part of the council’s wider £37.5 million plan to improve the lives of Dorset children with SEND. The Council says more provision is also being created at existing special and mainstream schools.