I was honoured to officially open Thornhill Park School today.

Thornhill Park is a fantastic facility, creating more school places for children to enjoy education and reach their full potential in a safe and welcoming environment.

The provision of specialist Autism Education places are in high demand, many families struggle for many years to obtain the support needed and finding appropriate school places is often the most important issue.

I have seen in my office over the last few years the increase in people contacting me for assistance in obtaining Education Health Care plans and then school places and know how much it means to families who are in that position.

This is the reason that when I first heard about the problems John and the team were encountering in obtaining Ministerial sign off for the purchase of the school, I was keen to get involved and do all I can to ensure the school could open.

Having Thornhill Park School in Sunderland will mean that more children are able to develop skills and strengths which will help them to succeed and will allow their families to watch them strive.

There are currently 45 children in attendance and the school hopes to welcome more soon, as well as potentially expand to further sites in the future, something I would be happy to support.

I have been so inspired and impressed by the work of the North East Autism Society and the people involved with it. The vision they have for the success of people with Autism and the approach of kindness, tolerance and understanding is what makes it so successful in its achievements.

From the founding of the Society in 1980 by a group of parents, to 40 years on offering such a wide array of services is a remarkable accomplishment.

NEAS is an example of what can be achieved when organisations and local authorities work in close partnership and compliment one another in order to ensure the best use of resources with the people who need the help most in mind.

I hope with further funding in Education we can see more school places being offered to children and young people through NEAS and in the wider community. For now, however I urge you all to support NEAS to achieve further success in their ‘All to play for’ campaign.

40 years ago with the help of the Sunderland Echo and many other community groups from across the region the society was able to raise £25,000 to buy what would be the first autism specific school, now the hope is to raise a similar sum to buy bespoke play equipment for this School.

I wish them every success with this project and look forward to hopefully being invited back along to see this installed and to watch the children enjoy all this wonderful school has to offer.

Thornhill Park School and the North East Autism Society are a shining example of what can be achieved when communities such as that we see in Sunderland come together.

Opening new Sunderland school
Opening new Sunderland school
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