sarahstoreyBritain's most successful female Paralympian has helped to officially open a specialist college in Manchester, which provides services and support for students with learning disabilities, complex needs and autism.

Dame Sarah Storey (pictured centre) joined students and staff from Bridge College in Openshaw, East Manchester last week [February 13] as they celebrated the completion of a 3-year project to create a learning hub for the development of social skills and independence, and an area dedicated to promoting horticulture in an urban setting.

The Openshaw project was developed through a partnership between The Manchester College and care and education provider Together Trust.

Also supported by a number of grant makers, including the Northwest Regional Development Agency, New East Manchester and Manchester City Council, Together Trust and Manchester College raised £6.9 million to develop the new facilities to offer students aged 16-25 learning support, speech and language, physio, hydro and occupational therapies that support and enable them to learn.

After enjoying a performance from the college's singing and signing group, Dame Sarah said: "I was invited 10 years ago to open the hydrotherapy pool at the former Bridge College site in Stockport and I saw then how dedicated the staff are at providing the very best services and support for their students.

"This new facility is like no other in the country, and it’s fantastic to see that the money invested in this project will give the students the best opportunities to help them live independently and meet their full potential. Today has been a real celebration of all the hard work that has gone in to this project and all the team that have been involved in the creation and development of the new Bridge College should be commended."

David Marriott, chief executive of the Together Trust, added: "This new facility would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the partnership between Bridge College and The Manchester College.

"By sharing knowledge and expertise we have created a project that will give regional and local residents with complex needs access to the best, most innovative services in the UK. I am extremely proud of everyone who has been involved in making this possible."