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(UK) Cambridgeshire: New autism school to open; over 100 students without a school place

Sept 11, 2020, Cambridge Independent: Specialist school for children with autism could open next year in South Cambridgeshire SE England A groundbreaking new school for children with autism looks set to open in Impington next year – addressing a costly shortage of provision within the county. The Cavendish School will specialise in the education of children with Autism Spectrum Condition and be based on the Impington Village College campus. The Learning Alliance, the trust which will operate the school, says it will be unique with it being the first state-funded school for autism in the UK, and the first International Baccalaureate World School for young people with autism. … The trust says the free school will address a countywide shortage of provision for those with higher functioning Autism Spectrum Condition, and provide much needed specialist provision for those who do not currently have access. In its planning application submitted in December last year, the trust said that Cambridgeshire County Council places around 70 such pupils “in very costly independent or ‘out-of-county’ schools” The new school will accommodate up to 80 young people aged seven to 19, and is planning to open within the academic year 2021/22, if not in time to start the new academic year….. Speaking for the trust, its deputy CEO, Ryan Kelsall, said he is “delighted” with the committee’s decision, and is “hugely excited about the next steps of bringing this school online”. Making the case to grant planning permission, he told the committee: “The school needs to open in the academic year 2021/22. “The Cavendish School will provide education for a large number of students with autism diagnoses, many of whom are currently not receiving appropriate education or are accessing extremely expensive private provision at significant cost to the council at a time when the high needs education budget in Cambridgeshire is already approximately £18 million in deficit. “There are currently over 100 young people in Cambridgeshire that should be being educated in special needs school who are not. Failure to open the Cavendish School in the academic year 2021/22 will mean that these young people will continue to be able to access the educational provision they require, deserve and are entitled to by law”. He told the committee that the trust now faces the “the challenge of building and opening a school in less than 12 months”. Had planning permission not been granted, he said it would cause “further anxiety” to the vulnerable children and their families who would need to wait a further year to access the facilities they need…. Councillor Anna Bradnam said: “I’m very aware of how short we are of this specialist school provision, and so I’m very pleased to see this happening right in the area where it’s needed. We have very many children who are being taken long distances by taxi to appropriate schools, so having it here would be wonderful”. Councillor Pippa Heylings said the committee had heard how the issue is “time critical”, adding that there is an “urgent and important need for state specialist provision for high-functioning autism”….


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