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St Helens, England: "Growing demand" for special education places

Sept 25, 2020, St Helens Star: Penkford School to be moved to abandoned Red Bank unit https://www.sthelensstar.co.uk/news/18749934.penkord-school-moved-abandoned-red-bank-unit/

SW England AN education unit at an abandoned detention centre in Newton-le-Willows is to be repurposed for Penkford School. St Helens Borough Council’s cabinet approved the £6.8 million development on Wednesday, and, subject to the Charity Commission, agreed to enter into a lease with Red Bank Schools Limited…. In January 2019, cabinet approved a series of measures in relation to the potential development of the Red Bank site and relocation of Penkford School, which is a maintained special school based in Newton-le-Willows. Penkford School was previously earmarked for a complete rebuild under the Labour Government’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. However, the BSF programme was scrapped in by the Conservative Government 2010, which meant the rebuilding of the school never happened. A feasibility study on whether the Red Bank education unit could be re-purposed has established that the building could provide a suitable alternative, at an approximate cost of £6.8 million, subject to planning consent being granted. Alternative options have been considered, including alternative sites or rebuilding Penkford School on its current site. However, the report says the Red Bank development is considered to represent a better option for pupils and delivers better value for money. Another reason for the development is due to the increasing pressure on school budgets due to growing demand for specialist provision for pupils with special educational needs and disability. Speaking at cabinet, Cllr Jeanie Bell, Newton councillor and cabinet member for safer, stronger communities, said pupils and staff at Penkford deserve to have a “fit for purpose” building. Cllr Bell said: “It’s something that the Newton and Earlestown councillors have lobbied hard on quite a while, and relentlessly. It’s great to see this coming forward…. The development has also been welcomed by fellow Labour councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron, who recently joined the governing body of Penkford School. …