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(UK) Essex Co: New special school for 190; 612 more places needed by 2026

May 29, 2024, BBC News: New special school will give 'best start in life'

A new school for children with special educational needs and disabilities has been backed by senior councillors.

The school for 190 children will be the first of its kind to be built in the Rochford district and was agreed by cabinet members on the Tory-run Essex County Council.

It comes at a time when the local authority has been criticised by parents for delays in assessing children with special needs, with some families waiting over a year.

Tony Ball, cabinet member for education, said: "We are committed to helping all children in Essex get the best possible start in life.”

'Significantly beyond' capacity

The new school will be housed on two sites, with 150 places created on the Wolsey Park development, off Rawreth Lane in Rayleigh, and an additional 40 on the Chetwood School site in South Woodham Ferrers.

The school will cater for children aged between three and 19 years old and will be funded by a Department for Education (DfE) grant and money paid by developers through section 106 agreements.

According to cabinet reports, the DfE says Essex’s special schools are currently operating at “significantly beyond” their physical capacity.

It is estimated that by 2026, Essex will need an extra 612 special school places to meet the anticipated growth of children and young people with an education health care plan (EHCP) who need a special school place.

Essex County Council has faced criticism with only about one per cent of (EHCP) assessments carried out within the legal limit of 20 weeks.

At a meeting earlier this month, Mr Ball admitted they had "let down" young people as he revealed 26 families has been waiting over a year for an assessment.

It led to heckles in the council chamber and protests outside County Hall in Chelmsford.

The new school does face "planning issues" due to the size of the building needed, but a report to cabinet following a consultation exercise, in which 95% of respondents backed the plan, said a "powerful argument" can be made to build it.

Mr Ball added: "I am very pleased that the council has set out its commitment to creating this desperately needed education facility for families in south Essex."

If planning is approved, the school could be open by 2026.


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