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(UK) Earley: New SPED center to "cope with rising demand"' $12.5M deficit this year

Sept 8, 2023, Reading Chronicle: Maiden Erlegh school: councillors to decide on SEND plans

S. England

Maiden Erlgeh School in Earley could soon host a new special educational needs centre if councillors give plans the green light.

The plans are part of Wokingham Borough Council’s efforts to provide more schools that can accommodate children with special educational needs.

Documents submitted to the council’s planning committee say there is a “pressing and established need for a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school to serve both Wokingham and Reading borough residents.”

Under the plans, the high school would host room for up to 25 children with autism and social, emotional and mental health needs by September 2025. The council says the new centre is vital for ensuring that it can cope with rising demand on its services.

Carey Tulloch from the council’s children’s services department said the new space would be “critical” to delivering specialist facilities, in a document accompanying the plans.

Pupils at the centre will benefit from a therapy room, a sensory room, a dedicated resource space and specialist classrooms.

These will be housed in the former Silverdale Community Centre, which will be refurbished.

But the council will need to get permission from its own planning committee to change the use of the building before it can be used for educational purposes.

Wokingham Borough Council faces major challenges in providing education for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Rising costs and an increase in the number of children needing SEND services have not been covered by schools funding from the government.
This has led to a deficit of almost £10 million [$12.5M] in the council’s schools budget, and the award of an additional £8 million [$10.6M] “safety valve” grant from the government earlier this year.

In return for the grant, Wokingham Borough Council agreed to improve its SEND school services. It hopes the new centre will help it do this, while also cutting the costs of currently having to send children to specialist schools that are outside the borough or run privately.

Ms Tulloch said: “Due to the significant increase in SEND population seen in recent years there is not enough specialist local provision to meet need.
“The number of SEND pupils is projected to continue to grow significantly and action needs to be taken to ensure that appropriate provision is available locally.”

She added that building the new centre would benefit children as they wouldn’t have to travel long distances, and would improve autism awareness for the whole school.

Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee was set to consider the proposals at a meeting on Wednesday, September 13.


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