THE MAN who saved Undershaw from demolition for use as the new home for Stepping Stones School has been awarded an OBE.
David Forbes-Nixon was named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to children and adults with special educational needs and disabilities.
He bought Undershaw, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former country house, in 2014, serving as a new home for Stepping Stones School, with Mr Forbes-Nixon named as co-founder in its new location.
Mr Forbes-Nixon’s son Charlie, who was a student at Stepping Stones, served as inspiration for his charitable endeavours, having set up the DFN Charitable Foundation in 2014 and DFN Project SEARCH in 2018, which aims to make a positive difference to the lives of young people with special educational needs and disabilities.
The foundation spent £800,000 on the restoration of Undershaw, with further development including an extension to house a hall, hydrotherapy pool and classrooms.
In 2018, he also obtained the master franchise agreement for Project SEARCH for the UK which works with companies to provide long-term jobs for young adults with learning disabilities and autism.
On his award, Mr Forbes-Nixon said: “I am honoured but it is on behalf of everyone involved at Stepping Stones School, the DFN Charitable Foundation and DFN Project SEARCH.
“We have only been able to achieve so much because of their efforts and this award is for them as much as me.
“It is hugely difficult for people with learning disabilities to get the education they need to prepare them to find long-term, meaningful employment, with only 5.6 per cent in full-time jobs.
“I will continue to work with my colleagues at DFN Project SEARCH to do everything we can to significantly improve this outcome.
“I would like to thank everyone at Stepping Stones School and at the DFN Foundation and DFN Project SEARCH for their brilliant work with children and adults.”
Stepping Stones School was conceived by two parents, Larry Sullivan and Sandy Seagrove, in 2004. The group took up the lease on Undershaw in 2016, and now caters for 95 students in full-time special needs education and employs more than 50 members of staff.