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(UK) Cheadle Hulme: 'Desperately needed' $21M special school delayed

Jan 10, 2023, Manchester Evening News: Anger and frustration as 'desperately needed' new special needs school is delayed

"Not only is this morally wrong, but it's costing the council a huge sum of money."

The opening of a ‘desperately needed’ new £17m [$21M] special school has been delayed.

Pear Tree Academy is set to provide places for up to 133 secondary pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), including those with autism. It will be based at the derelict Orrishmere Primary School site, in Cheadle Hulme, which has become a magnet for anti-social behaviour over recent years.

Councillors passed the plans last October and were delighted that children would benefit from being educated closer to home, while the authority would also save thousands by not having to shell out on external placements. The Worcester Road school - a modular building to be built ‘off-site’ - was set to open this year.

But there has now been a delay after the Department for Education decided to change contractor, meaning it has now been pencilled in for 2024-25. Coun David Meller, who represents Cheadle Hulme North, says he is furious over the setback.

“This delay is appalling news not just for local residents, who have to put up with the derelict Orrishmere Primary site and the trouble it can attract, but for the children in Stockport who desperately need this school,” he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

"We have a chronic shortage of specialist SEND places in Stockport, with some of our most vulnerable children having to travel out of the borough to access the education they need. Not only is this morally wrong, but it's costing the council a huge sum of money."

It is understood the school will now be built to higher environmental standards, as these have been improved since the original design. But that is scant consolation to Coun Meller.

"The DfE need to get this sorted - now,” he said. “This represents a failure at government level and is letting Stockport's most vulnerable children down, coupled with the community as a whole."

Bird's-eye view of proposed Pear Tree Academy, in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport. (Image: Ellis Williams Architects.)


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