REACH pupil referral unit opened by Peter Coates
A SERVICE which supports troubled teenagers and those who have been excluded from mainstream education is celebrating moving into a £4.3 million new building.
The new home for the REACH pupil referral unit has been built alongside the A34, in Trent Vale, and was officially opened by Stoke City chairman Peter Coates yesterday.
Its cube-shaped front, and plush, airy interiors, are a world away from the old split-site buildings in Bucknall.
At one point, pupils at the school had to learn in a wooden shed.
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REACH caters for 11 to 16-year-olds from across Stoke-on-Trent.
They either follow intensive six-week programmes to help them back into mainstream classes or stay on there to take their GCSEs.
Sixteen-year-old Ethan Richardson, from Newstead, joined the short-stay school in September after being excluded from his previous school, the former Edensor Technology College, in Longton.
He said: "I was a little terror. But since coming here, I've become more motivated and have changed a lot. I'm doing at least 10 GCSEs.
"The teachers care about you and you have just three or four people in a group."
Ethan has also been impressed with the new facilities, which pupils began using last month.
"There is a kiln room off the art room, so we can make pottery," he said.
"The building is much bigger. But the biggest difference is the outdoor space. We didn't used to have any with our old building."
The grounds include a five-a-side football pitch, games area, seating, and gardens where youngsters can study.
Inside, they can use a student hub at break-times and the college-like environment has separate rooms for 11 to 14-year-olds and GCSE-age students.
REACH is one of the first schools to be completely rebuilt through Stoke-on-Trent City Council's £261 million Building Schools for the Future programme.
Headteacher Lorna Matley said: "It sends out the right message to families and young people. If they come here, they feel special."
REACH, which was rated as 'outstanding' by Ofsted last year, also impressed Mr Coates.
Unveiling a plaque yesterday, he said: "We have got a school that has achieved great things. It's a very special school and a wonderful building."
The building, which will cater for about 50 youngsters, was created on the site of the former Trent Vale Primary School.