Unicorn Old Gaol Public Consultation

Unicorn Old Gaol, Abingdon

Unicorn Trust is a registered charity that was established to support children aged 6-16 years with primary needs of Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia and Speech, Language, & Communication needs (SLCN).

The school provides a positive, nurturing environment in which every pupil is helped to build self-confidence, and develop their own personal learning style.The school has gradually grown over the last 30 years, and is now an established school of 108 students, from its site on Marcham Road, Abingdon.

Demand for the support the school offers its students remains significantly above what the Marcham Road site can accommodate, with around 250 pupils applying for a place each academic year. While around 50 of these pupils will meet the criteria for the school, 200 do not meet the pupil profile of the Unicorn as they have additional needs that the school cannot currently support.

In response to the high levels of unmet need for prospective pupils’ places, the Governors of the school have ambitious plans over the next five years to expand. These expansion plans include:

  • The establishment of a new school for autistic children aged 8 – 16.
  • The establishment of a college, to support young adults with autism covering ages from 16 to 19 years to be known as The Phoenix College.

Phase One of the charity’s plan is to establish a college in Abingdon, for young adults from the surrounding area aged 16-19 years. The aim of the college will be to help students achieve their potential, increase their ability to live independently and to gain employment.

The students who would be supported by the college would be those for whom the mainstream further education environment is unsuitable for their learning needs.

The proposed Phoenix College provides an opportunity to provide a specialist educational facility which is in great demand and capable of making a huge difference to the quality of life of young people with autism. The proposals are low impact to neighbouring amenity and would not require any significant amendments to the listed building.

We would very much welcome your comments on these draft proposals to inform our planning application submission to the local planning authority in May 2022. Please complete and submit the form to the righthand side.

Summary Points:

  • Initial phase of wider expansion by The Unicorn Trust, to allow for the large unmet need of specialist education provision in the County.
  • Viable opportunity to revitalise an underused area of a prominent heritage asset.
  • Low impact proposals which do not require meaningful amendments to the fabric of the listed building.
  • Proposals involve no vehicle parking on site.
  • A phased approach to student intake is proposed with an additional student cohort taken on each year to 2026.
  • Students will be based on site, but encouraged through the course curriculum to get out into the community and offsite work placements. As such actual student numbers on site are likely to be below 32 at most times.