Paralympian gives new Fakenham school golden opening

Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE (right) with Cllr John Fisher at the official opening of the Duke of Lancaster school in Fakenham

Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE (right) with Cllr John Fisher at the official opening of the Duke of Lancaster school in Fakenham - Credit: David Kirkham

A gold medal-winning Paralympian shared time with students and staff as she formally opened a Norfolk SENDAT school.

Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE, the gold Paralympic swimmer from Norfolk, helped celebrate the formal opening of the Duke of Lancaster, a school for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and complex communication and interaction needs in Fakenham on May 27.

The 25-year-old from Great Yarmouth, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, spent the morning at the school with her coach Alex Pinniger speaking to the students on overcoming challenges and pursuing their talents.

She then formally opened the school with John Fisher, cabinet member for Children’s Services, at Norfolk County Council.

Great Britain's Jessica-Jane Applegate on the podium with her gold medal after the Women's 200m Free

Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE, the gold Paralympic swimmer from Great Yarmouth - Credit: PA Wire

Miss Applegate said: “It was an honour to be invited to participate in the opening celebrations.

“The new academy and facilities looked fantastic, however, it was the people that stood out. The pupils were engaged and enjoying their new school journey.

“The staff were professional, friendly and enthusiastic. I am sure this school will thrive.”

Duke of Lancaster Academy in Fakenham. Picture: Danielle Booden

Duke of Lancaster Academy in Fakenham. - Credit: Danielle Booden

The Duke of Lancaster, which opened its doors in January, is one of the newest schools to be run by SENDAT, a multi-academy trust in special education and specialist provision in the eastern region.

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Built as part of Norfolk County Council’s £120 million SEND transformation programme, it will provide 100 specialist places for children aged from five to 16 when it reaches its maximum capacity by September next year.

MP Jerome Mayhew also attended the ceremony along with councillor Tom Fitzpatrick, Lawrence Chapman – CEO of SENDAT, SENDAT trustees, Fakenham town councillors Gilly Foortse and Angela Glynn, representatives from Norfolk County Council, RG Carter and NPS who were involved in building the school.

Rob Speck, head of school at Duke of Lancaster in Fakenham. Picture: Danielle Booden

Rob Speck, head of school at Duke of Lancaster in Fakenham. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Rob Speck, Head of School of Duke of Lancaster, added:  “When I reflect on the contributions to create our school by the teams at Norfolk County Council, RG Carter, SENDAT, school staff, parents and carers, and our wonderful students, it underlines what amazing things we can achieve by working together.”

The opening ceremony was followed by an open afternoon for parents and carers of existing, and new students joining the school this September.