The former head of Robert Bruce Middle School in Kempston has spoken of his pride at seeing his former school rising like a “phoenix from the ashes” as a new SEND school.
Frank McMahon was head at Robert Bruce for 15 years retiring in 2005, and the school eventually closed 10 years later. However, a new school, the largest SEND facility in the country, is being built on its former site.
Mr McMahon recently visited the site to see how work is progressing on the school, which will have space for 200 students aged 2-19 with special educational needs.
These include children with physical disabilities, those on the autistic spectrum, and those with severe learning disabilities.
He said: “It’s a real mix of emotions being here today,” he said.
“There’s a sadness that the old school, all of the resources, and the quality of education that we gave is no longer there. I constantly see former pupils and get told how much they enjoyed their time at Robert Bruce.
“There’s a really strong bond between pupils and staff, across the generations. But on the other hand, I can see that this new school is like a phoenix from the ashes, which is going to be a fantastic facility.”
Bedford Borough has seen an 18% increase in the number of children attending SEND schools in the last four years, according to Bedford Borough Council.
Mr McMahon added: “I’ve always had a soft spot for SEN. A mark of how a school should be run is how much they support the children who most need support. That’s something that is really being embraced with creating this new school.
“The memories of Robert Bruce, and all the good times, won’t disappear. But new memories will be created here.”
Robert Bruce Middle School originally opened as Kempston Senior Council School in 1928.
Over its nearly 100 years it was also known as Kempston County Secondary Modern School and Robert Bruce County Secondary Modern School. It moved to its final site, off Hillgrounds Road, in the early 1960s.
Mayor of Bedford Borough Tom Wootton (Conservative) said: “People like Frank have always been crucial to the many fantastic schools we have across the borough. I was delighted he was able to be here today and see the progress we’re making.
“I signed off to begin construction on this new school on my first day as mayor after being elected. Schools, education, and SEN are absolutely crucial to the borough’s future and I’m excited to see how the work continues to progress.”
The new school has been funded in conjunction with the Department For Education (DfE) and is due to open in phases from September 2024.