Special school takes delivery of Smiley Bus in time for Christmas

Students at a special school in Cheshire are celebrating after becoming the latest recipient of a Steve Morgan Foundation Smiley Bus.

Hebden Green Community Special School in Winsford caters for children with complex medical, learning and physical needs and has seen a 35 per cent increase in pupil numbers in the last five years.

Students are aged between two to 19 and come from across Cheshire and North Wales and are prepared for their adult life.

Around half of their 141 students are wheelchair users and with no bus of their own the school has had to hire transport or a fleet of taxis to take pupils on days out.

Now those problems are a thing of the past after they took delivery of one of the 89 Smiley Buses the Steve Morgan Foundation has provided across Cheshire, Merseyside and North Wales in recent years.

The school’s business manager Lauren Leech said the lack of their own transport had been a problem for a while.

“Without a minibus it makes it harder to access the community,” she said. “Without a bus of our own we didn’t go out as often as we’d like so the students couldn’t access as many things.

“Coaches aren’t wheelchair accessible so we were previously having to hire a minibus and make multiple shuttle runs or book several taxis, which was very expensive.”

The school estimate they were spending up to £20,000 a year on booking transport in order for pupils to go out on educational and enrichment visits, including to the beach, soft play and horse riding.

As they progress through the school, visits include trips to the Imperial War Museum, Manchester Museum, The Cheshire Show and various sporting events.

Minibuses are also used at the residential facility providing social visits to the cinema, bowling and restaurants.

In desperation they approached the Steve Morgan Foundation for help and they paid £27,000 towards the cost of a wheelchair-accessible Smiley Bus with the school contributing £7,600.

Lauren said: “Everyone is delighted and it will make such a difference. The students are really excited. It gives us options for trips and opportunities for them to work on their independence that they haven’t been able to do previously. We’re very grateful to the Steve Morgan Foundation.”

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