The Countess of Wessex visits Sussex Aspire Vocational Centre today(April 19).

The Aspire Vocational Centre is based at St Mary’s School and College, in Bexhill-on-Sea.

Her Royal Highness, The Countess of Wessex is the patron of the college founded in 1922.

St Mary’s School and College is part of The Talking Trust, a registered charity.

The college is a school for children with communication difficulties and associated complex needs.

The children are between the ages of 7-19 and have a range of needs.

The Aspire Vocational Centre is a new provision, providing a curriculum and work experience opportunities.

St Mary’s believes the centre is the only project of its kind in the country.

The school transformed former classrooms into the Vocational Centre which includes a café.

The Countess will be served lunch by pupils within the centre.

Also included is a car wash, hair salon, pop up shop, bank, general stores and laundrette.

The college call the new centre an innovative ‘shopping mall’.

It aims to offer the young people the chance to gain work experience and improve social skills.

Consultant Principal Amanda Clugston said,

“The Aspire project is a fantastic innovation of which we are hugely proud of and we believe it’s unique in the UK,” 

“It is the result of a lot of hard work on the part of teachers, staff, parents, governors and the Interim Management Board, and we’re delighted that it is due to receive the royal seal of approval.”

The Aspire Centre is managed by a dedicated team of staff and run by college students.

Plans for a print room and photographic studio are currently underway.