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(UK) Dorset: New ($13M) special school for 280 students

Nov 10, 2021, Planet Radio: Places at new SEND school to be offered to Dorset pupil's first

SW England

Places at Dorset’s new special needs school, near Shaftesbury, will be offered to families from the county as a priority.

Councillors have been told that if the school has spare capacity children from neighbouring counties may also be able to attend.

The school itself, St Mary’s, is just over the border into Wiltshire. It will be known as the Dorset Centre of Excellence, able to take up to 280 pupils with additional needs.

Roughly a third of the 3,000 Dorset children with an education, health and care plan have their family home within 50 minutes of the new centre, a former private school which Dorset Council bought for around £10million [$13M].

The first pupils, around 60 aged 5-19, are expected to be admitted next year, many of them with Autistic Spectrum Condition or having social, emotional and mental health difficulties. The school is then expected to grow by adding an extra 60 pupils each year.

Dorset Council claims the new school will help cut its costs and improve education for local children. It says that around 275 Dorset pupils with additional needs are currently being educated and cared for in independent schools, many of these out of the county at a typical cost of between £55,000 [$74K] and £65,000 [$87K] a year, typically around £14m [$19M]a year which Dorset Council needs to find. By bringing some pupils back into the county and to St Mary’s costs will come down to £20,000 to £30,000 a year for each pupil….

She told the committee that the school site could, in time, offer other facilities for older pupils including for horticulture, workshops and flats for those up to the age of 25 who were on their journey towards independent living or work.


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