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(UK) Dorset: $36M needed to create 228 MORE special needs places

Sept 3, 2022, Dorset Echo: £31m [$36M] of spending requested to create more spaces for SEND children in Dorset schools

SW England

EXTRA spending of £31.5million is being requested to increase the number of school places for children with additional needs in Dorset.
If approved it will almost double the amount of money Dorset Council had already committed to spend and will create an extra 228 places over three years, starting from September 2023.

Details of the ten schemes being proposed are not being made public because the Council has ruled they are ‘commercially sensitive’, although councillors will be able to see the details of the confidential papers when the Cabinet meets to decide on the increased spending on Wednesday (7th)….

Dorset, liked other areas, has seen a big increase in the number of children with an Education Health and Care Plan – with 2,800 in August 2020 and 3,300 in June this year.

Many are catered for in mainstream schools alongside more able pupils, although often with additional classroom support and partly using ‘hub’ units, while others are considered to be better cared for in specialist units such as Coombe House School near Shaftesbury and the through the expansion of the Beaucroft School at Wimborne which includes adapting one of the blocks on to specifically cater for students with complex needs at 16-plus. The block will be able to accommodate up to 24 pupils and has been specifically targeted to meets the need of children aged 16-plus, the age group most likely to be educated in independent placements….

Other projects currently in the pipeline include 14-19 special school provision at Osprey Quay, Portland funded by the Department of Education. This will provide 75 places with Dorset Council supporting the DfE and Delta Education Trust to deliver the project.

A report to Cabinet says that although the council has significant land holdings for educational use some of the projects being investigated may involve purchasing additional land. A report says that there are risks with the programme, although these have been mitigated and allowed for, where possible. An inflation figure of 10-20% has been built into the proposals, depending on the finally agreed projects.

Dorset Council says that the average cost of placing a child in an independent special school is £55,700 [$64K] each year, compared to £23,127 [$27K] in a maintained special school – saving £459,276 per pupil over the average 14-year education period where a child is educated ‘in-house’.


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