This is one of the biggest special school capital projects in the UK, at a cost of more than £50m. We’re not just building a new school: we are building a new future for thousands of children and young people with acute special needs and we need your help to raise the funds to help pay for the project.


The school and college now need to be able to educate students with profound communication difficulties compounded by severe learning difficulties, sensory impairments, autism and behavioural challenges, health and physical difficulties. The children come to Seashell as they need the specialist environment and expertise that only we can deliver to provide key learning difficulties support. And that needs to be delivered in a modern, fit-for-purpose environment. That means wider corridors for wheelchairs, specialist environments and equipment, adaptations to rooms, and the integration of modern technology which plays such a vital role in supporting people with learning disabilities.

The children and young people are referred to Seashell from local authorities across the UK. The vast majority of students will have previously attended other special schools but they have unfortunately been unable to satisfactorily meet their needs.

Our children and young people attend as day pupils (several of whom use our short breaks service/offering to provide respite care for their parents) or as residents, which includes weekly or termly boarding as well as 52-week placements to meet both individual and family needs. The school currently has 48 pupils and 102 staff.

The current school buildings

Our pupils’ progress in learning is hampered by the current buildings. The progress our young people manage to make is a credit to the outstanding skills and support of our unwavering staff. Rooms that are too small, cluttered with equipment, lacking in appropriate stimulation and facilities, poor lighting and acoustics, inadequate heating and ventilation add to the stress and anxieties of students and inevitably the staff.

The current school buildings are now at their structural limits and are not fit for purpose and no longer meet Seashell’s operational requirements. The students’ needs are far more complex than ever before and therefore a purpose-built, special school is required to adequately meet these needs.

Without a new specialist school, we would have to continue to turn students away on a more frequent basis, and we would be prevented from being able to accommodate the current cohort of students with their complex and profound disabilities.

To enable our students to follow an individualised programme successfully they must be able to benefit from learning opportunities in the environments where they feel most comfortable and stimulated. For our students, this is not a conventional classroom. Rooms need to be flexible so that a teaching space can be turned into a dark room for light stimulation and visual attention or a room where messy play and art can be carried out at relatively short notice.

Regrettably, last year 26 applications to attend Seashell have been rejected due to the lack of suitable space for each student.

We have a very limited number of rooms that we can use as individual classrooms and a large number of students that require individual teaching space for a period of time while they begin to integrate into the shared teaching spaces.

A greater number of life skills rooms, art rooms and sensory integration rooms are desperately required so that students can access rooms according to their needs and interests at times when they need them the most.

Here are some of the reasons why we need your help

Specialist Sensory Equipment

Specialist sensory equipment is essential and needs to be incorporated into all classrooms. Our children are taught to self-regulate their behaviours with the use of specialised equipment such as flat swings, hammock swings and therapy rolls. Unfortunately, this is not possible with our current building due to the size of the rooms and lack of adequate storage.

Each classroom in the new school will have a specialist sensory and sensory integration room to meet the very specific needs of every student.

School Hall

The current school hall is unable to accommodate all students together along with their equipment and support staff in a safe and controlled manner. When occupied by students and staff there is little space for any movement, there is an intense feeling of overcrowding and it’s very difficult for families and carers to visit and see children’s assemblies and performances.

The new school will have its own purpose-built school hall which will accommodate all students and staff and we will be able to invite families in for assemblies and performances.

The Heating System

The school accommodates children who are unable to regulate their body temperature. These children can go into “crisis” (meaning a medical crisis such as an adrenal crisis, or an epileptic seizure) if their temperature cannot be successfully managed. The school, therefore, needs to have a very responsive heating and cooling system within designated spaces to provide our students with the safest environment.

The current school building is significantly lacking in this area and Seashell currently makes use of manual devices such as portable heaters and electric fans. Not only are these very inefficient, but they present some additional distractions (visual, auditory and vibration) which can overstimulate some children and present hazards to others. Consequently, children take longer to return to their “just right state” and participate in learning, with detrimental impacts on their learning outcomes.

Accessibility Issues

Children use a range of mobility equipment to navigate the school building. Transition between classrooms is a learning opportunity used by teaching, therapy and support staff and helps to encourage students to exercise and socialise. Corridors need to be wide enough therefore to accommodate the child, equipment and staff as they enable the child to develop independent travel.

Additionally, children with autism require more personal space, especially when making transitions between different areas of the school. Corridors are an especially difficult environment for many of our children with autism, leading to a higher rate of challenging incidents arising during transition times. Extra-wide corridors give students the space they need to manage the travel from one location to another successfully and safely.

The current width of the corridors and doorways are totally inadequate for the needs and safety of the students.

Limited Equipment Storage

Two bathrooms have had the toilets and sink removed to make cupboards to store equipment. These rooms are overflowing and the doors cannot be closed as there are too many pieces of equipment in each room impinging on the space in the already narrow corridor.

Some small 1:1 classrooms have large pieces of sensory equipment and IT equipment. Rooms become cluttered which then impacts on the learning. Busy environments can become overstimulating and confusing for the children. They become distracted which consequently brings on difficulties.

Every classroom in the new school will have its own purpose-built storage area to store the large and essential pieces of equipment needed by each student.

Dining Hall

The dining facilities are not fit for purpose for students in our school and college. Three years ago when the new care homes were completed, the previous residential care homes were demolished, along with the main kitchen.

For the past three years the school kitchen, which dates back to the 1950s, has been used to cook meals for both the school and the college. Food has to be cooked and then stored in the stainless steel heated trolleys until the kitchen staff are ready to serve between 12.00 and 13.00. At lunchtime, each trolley of hot food has to be pushed across the site from the school kitchen to the college dining room and then back again.

The dining room is also part of the corridor that leads to and from the east wing of the school. This means that the reverberations in the dining room can be heard throughout the school and the increase in noise levels is very challenging for many of our children and young people.

Whilst a lot of our students struggle with loud, busy environments, they need opportunities to develop their independence and are encouraged to queue, make a choice of food and take it from the hatch to their seat. This can be an extremely challenging time and can lead to incidents of challenging behaviour during lunchtime. This is also the time that staff take their lunch breaks so during lunch we operate with reduced staffing ratios over three lunch periods.

What does the future look like?

With planning permission secured Seashell is preparing to embark on the most significant investment in its estate since the charity was founded almost 200 years ago as the Royal Schools for the Deaf Manchester. The investment is phased over five years,

With agreement from the Charity Commission, the charity has sold a portion of its land holding to a house builder. This will yield £31 million, which we must only spend on capital investment thereby retaining the assets as a permanent endowment in accordance with Charity Commission rules.

Seashell is launching an appeal to raise £13 million over five years apportioned against the cost of each phase.


£50m Investment

Over a period of five years, Seashell will be investing £50 million in the building of the following, in order:

  • A new Royal School Manchester special school and shared facilities
  • A sports centre for our inclusive sport programme
  • A major upgrade to our specialist college Royal College Manchester
  • A training and community centre
  • A family assessment services centre

Find out more about how you can support our Transforming Lives Appeal with community fundraising, corporate fundraising or by taking part in one of our Challenge Events.

Transforming Lives Appeal Board

Transforming Lives Appeal Board

Who we are

Seashell. An extraordinary place. For extraordinary people.

Find out more

Our history

Our charity was founded in 1823 and enjoys a rich history, originally opening as a deaf school for children in rented premises in Salford. We re looking forward to celebrating our bicentenary in 2023.

Discover more

For a conversation about your philanthropy contact Dominic, tel. 0161 610 0117 or Rachel, tel. 0161 610 0142

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