FORTY years after it was set-up to help children and families with special needs, the Springboard Opportunity Group has grown enormously from its simple beginnings in Chippenham.

Formed in 1976 by a steering committee, the charity’s aim was to help families with children who had any form of special need and who required more staff time, stimulation, and understanding than a normal playgroup could offer.

First based in The Bridge Centre in Chippenham, it moved to the Teacher’s Centre in Lowden Avenue following a small fire.

Further venues were trialled, including the old kitchens at Westmead School and a Portakabin in the grounds of Frogwell Hospital, which became a permanent home for nearly six years until the hospital was closed in 1989.

Following that it moved onto the Frogwell School site and remained there from August 1990 to September 2010.

Due to the growth of the group, however, and lack of space, it moved to purpose built facilities at Kings Lodge School where it has remained since.

Mike Jones, who has been a driver at the charity since 1996, said: “I heard about it because I used to do a similar thing for a year with social services. I had to take the children to Springboard and I got to hear about them and after a time I just concentrated on Springboard.

“I think it’s a fantastic place, seeing the children getting the help that they need.

“They were are at Frogwell Lane when I started but it wasn’t a big premises and was quite restrictive, it just had the main room but this has the main room, another room, play area and outdoor area.

“The interaction between the children and staff, you can see the improvement in the children.

“I started doing it as an interest and you tend to build up a relationship with the family. They build up a trust with you.”