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(UK) Dorset: New $12M special school for 280 "making good progress"

Sept 18, 2023, Dorset Echo: Coombe House special needs school making good progress

SW England

Dorset Council Corporate director Claire Shiels, who provides the council link with the independent school, near Shaftesbury, said that the school’s growth is in line with expectations in the business plan.

She told a shareholders committee on Monday that the school has also improved its community engagement and agreed new block contracts for pupil places which are at the lower end of benchmark costs compared to the national benchmark figures….

Managing Director Andy Holder told the meeting that an Ofsted inspection was imminent and would shortly be published: “I think it is reasonable to say that Ofsted have reflected the progress that has been made thus far… it’s positive news,” he said.

He told councillors that plans were in progress for the school to take on more of the buildings already on the site from Dorset Council to ensure there was enough classroom space available for September 2024…..

The Dorset Centre for Excellence is a project by Dorset Council to create a school and a centre of excellence for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

Dorset Council say the project aims to improve the lives and outcomes of Dorset children with SEND, as well as to reduce the costs of sending them to independent special schools, often out of the county.

The new school and centre of excellence is on the former St Mary’s School site, which was bought by Dorset Council for around £10 million [$12M], although more has been spent since on building works….

Eventually Coombe House, as it is now known, could cater for around 280 pupils with SEND, offering both day and residential places. The school will also provide vocational training in subjects like agriculture to prepare young people for the workplace.

The Centre of Excellence will be a hub for professional learning and development, where experts from across the region, and possibly nationally, can come together to learn, research and improve their practice in supporting children and young people with SEND. The centre will also offer short breaks and respite care for vulnerable children and adults, as well as facilities for Dorset children in care and care leavers.

Dorset Council says the Dorset Centre of Excellence project is part of a wider plan by the authority to invest £37.5 million [$46M] over five years to create more provision for children with SEND in the county – other projects include creating new specialist units at existing school sites throughout the county.


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