UPLANDS Educational Trust yesterday opened a new centre to help young people with special needs go out into the wider world.

The new facility, based in Stratton Road, aims to bridge the gap young adults with special needs face after they finish formal education.

The Learning Centre, run by Uplands Educational Trust, will provide for 19-25 year-olds coming out of school for the first time.

The executive headteacher of Uplands School, Jackie Smith, wants to recreate the university environment.

She said: “This is a vibrant and caring community where learning is fun. It is about getting our young people out into the world and making the contribution all of them can.

“This is their community and their home. For some of them it is an extension of their main school and for others it is about moving on from 19 and above.

“It is about getting out into the community and the opportunities they get are very broad.

“For the young people that are leaving us this year it is great to know they will have somewhere to go. This is their uni, and they have an absolute right to go to uni.

“They want to do that with people of their own age. When you go away to college you have to live somewhere and you want to live in a hall of residence.

“The Living Skills Centre will be opening in January, and will provide that opportunity to our young people in partnership with Sanctuary Housing.

“They will have their own tenancy and their own flat.

“We will also have a training flat in there to give young people the opportunity to grow and develop.”

The head was thrilled with how the charity had blossomed over the last year and is optimistic about the future.

She added: “The charity has only been on the go for 18 months but it is about working with the school.

“UET started just so that the school could rent a shop. From there we have been thinking about how to provide for Swindon’s young people. It evolved naturally. It is about helping them help themselves.

“We never imagined that a charity coffee shop would be so busy and could grow into this. There is quite a lot of work still to be done. We will be expanding the upstairs to include two new learning spaces.

“The next question we will be looking at is what happens to them after 25.”

South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said: “As the father of a disabled child I am delighted to open this centre which will be so important to these young people.

“It has happened so quickly and it is so important at a time when everybody is realising that education should not stop at 19.

“The transition to adulthood can take a while, and this is a place that can help them not fall off that cliff.

“This is about letting them realise their potential.

“They have something to offer the world of work and they should be as much a part of the mainstream as everybody else.

“It has got the right atmosphere I hope they go from strength to strength.”