Ysgol Y Deri - a special education school for pupils aged three to 19 - is a school which aims to provide students with a caring and learning environment.

Built three and a half years ago, Ysgol Y Deri is advanced in both its technology and teaching.

Head teacher Chris Britten has been at the school since it opened. He said he is proud of his staff and pupils and learns something new each day.

“We cater for differently-abled pupils,” said Mr Britten.

“Before I came to the school and had contact with special education schools it was always about what pupils couldn’t do, never about what they could do. Here we aim to always focus on what our students can do.”

At the moment the school houses more than 250 pupils and as it was designed from scratch it hosts a variety of facilities available to cater for different needs.

The building has a sensory room, its own radio station, immersive experience room, hydrotherapy pool, hair salon and café.

The café is open for the school’s pupils, staff and visitors and is run by pupils. It enables students to learn how to cook and what it’s like work in a catering environment – as well as learning to work together.

“The café is a great learning opportunity,” said Mr Britten.

“We have a full catering team who cook everything for the café which means they have to be fully hygiene ready and the café has a five in its hygiene rating.

“They don’t just cook for the café but they also make food for events as well. They will make canapes and I’m not just saying this as the head teacher but they are absolutely amazing,” he added.

The school’s hair salon is fully functioning and is open one day a week. It is used for pupils who may struggle with visiting a normal hair salon.

The salon in Ysgol Y Deri therefore caters for each pupil’s sensory needs. It is also used for social group activities and students can use the space to do each other’s hair and paint their nails.

The salon is also an opportunity for pupils to gain qualifications in hair and beauty.

Another unique thing the school has is a special outdoor area for pupils to grow vegetables which are used in the café and they also keep their own chickens.

“It’s a great way to show the pupils sustainability,” Mr Britten said.

Ysgol Y Deri has 200 staff members on site who teach a range of subjects and ages.

There are also many different types of therapy – including physiotherapy, touch therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, occupational therapy and aromatherapy and yoga.

The school has been awarded Centre of Excellence in Touch Therapy status.

It also has a successful outreach team of education advisers and learning support assistants who work in partnership to create autism friendly, inclusive mainstream environments.

Being a Special Education School, Ysgol Y Deri has adapted and is forward thinking about technology.

The school uses the technology of ‘Alexa’ – the Amazon assistant. They have managed to adapt the voice control and get it to link with physical things – for example; pupils can ask Alexa to shut the blinds and the blinds will close.

The technology teacher Lisa Rees-Renshaw, has specialised in developing the use of eye gaze and switch technology with pupils who are unable to speak.

Eye gaze and switch technology are methods that allow the user to control a computerised voice system through subtle movements of the body.

Ms Rees-Renshaw was given a national teaching award for this effort in June last year.

Mr Britten said the teacher also happened to be on a trip with one of Professor Stephen Hawking’s therapy nurses and got in touch with the professor to see if children could ask him questions.

“It was an amazing coincidence really, she contacted him and he replied and said the children could ask him two questions – they then asked these via eye gaze,” said Mr Britten.

“It was a great opportunity.”

Another new piece of technology the school is using is virtual reality.

Mr Britten describes it as an “excellent tool” to help pupils gain experiences they would not normally be able to.

“We have been working with virtual reality and we can give experiences that pupils may not be able to have normally,” explained Mr Britten.

“One of them has been going on a rollercoaster – for our pupils in wheelchairs this is something they can’t do and virtual reality has meant they can have that experience.

“We’ve also used these experiences to show pupils different parts of the world.

“One of our pupils did a painting of a beach as well and we stretched it out and used it as virtual reality.

“It’s really interesting.”

The school also has robot animals that react to how the children behave.

Speaking about them, Mr Britten said: “They are great for the children to interact with as some of our pupils interact better with them than they do in other social situations.

“If you are friendly then they will be as well and will interact with you, but if you are rude then they will walk away and ignore you.”

Overall, Ysgol Y Deri is a school that makes the most out of every situation for its pupils and has not only made school life exciting for the pupils, but also gives them many opportunities.