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(UK) Bristol: "Special needs crisis"; 2 new schools opening

Apr 19, 2021, Bristol Post: New £13.2m [$18.5M U.S.] primary and special school opens in South Bristol https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/new-132m-primary-special-school-5315469

SW England So severe is the special needs crisis that the old special school is going to reopen Children will move into two new schools opening on Tuesday on the same site in South Bristol. The new Merchants’ Academy Primary School is to open, alongside a new special school for children with autism. And such is the shortfall of places for students with special needs that the old school the students have left behind is immediately undergoing an emergency refurbishment to create another new school for another 50 SEND children…. In 2015, the SMVs also started a special school for children with autism at the nearby Gay Elms school site, called Venturers’ Academy, and it expanded rapidly. In 2017 and into 2018, plans to move 600 yards down the road to the bigger Merchants Academy site - on the former St John’s Ambulance base - were initially turned down by councillors in a row over trees, but eventually given permission in September 2018. Work began immediately, and now the project is completed - providing a new two-form entry mainstream primary school, and a new expanded school for children with autism, who will be referred there from across the West of England. The newly-opened and expanded Venturers Academy will be able to have 220 students of primary and secondary school age from September - up from just 54 when it first opened. The number of members of staff has also grown accordingly - up from 14 when the school first opened five years ago, to more than 150 now…. “This is such an exciting time for our schools, the Trust, the city of Bristol and the wider region,” said Mr Williams. “These wonderful new facilities are a real investment in the people who live here. We are delighted to be playing our part in meeting the needs of young people and their families,” he added…. Impact on the SEND crisis The newly-opened and expanded Venturers Academy could well help Bristol City Council and its ongoing SEND scandal. The council has failed to provide 250 places for children with special needs that their legal education plan says they are entitled to. The children involved in the SEND crisis across Bristol have a range of special needs, and Venturers Academy is a specialised school for children with autism. But such is the shortfall that Bristol City Council are now working with the school leaders to immediately reopen the old site at Gay Elms in September to provide a new emergency special needs school for another 50 children in the Early Years and Key Stage 1 age group. Initially, this will be in buildings being given a £300,000 refurbishment but a bid will be made to the Education and Skills Funding Agency for another new school, the Venturers Trust said….