top of page

(UK) Kent: Divide over "desperately needed" new special school

Sept 28, 2023, Kent Online: “Plans to build special educational needs school on Whitstable playing field divide opinion”
Residents are decrying plans to build a special educational needs school on a cherished town field – but many parents say such a facility is desperately needed.

Kent County Council (KCC) has selected Church Street playing field in Whitstable as the site of a new 120-pupil institution.

The authority has secured funding for the project with a caveat the school must be built in time to open in September 2025.

But opponents argue developing the much-loved green space would be unfair to people who enjoy using the area for exercise, play and dog walking.

Tankerton resident Warren Jarvis has long enjoyed using the field for “a range of leisure activities”.

Speaking on behalf of the Friends of Church Street Field group, he said: “There is no doubt that additional SEN provisions are required in Kent, but our position is that the field would be an unsuitable location….

Kent families are sorely in need of more providers equipped to accommodate the complex needs of SEN pupils.

Scores of parents currently travel out of town and, in some cases, across the county to drop off their kids at special schools.

Gemma Rigden travels to and from Whitstable to Sevenoaks twice daily so daughter Sakara can attend an SEN school.

She drives to and from Sevenoaks each day to deliver and fetch her daughter, Sakara - round-trip journeys that can take anywhere from two-and-a-half to four hours.

“Having a child in a school so far from home adds stress for the whole family,” explained Ms Rigden, 40….

Whitstable city councillor Chris Cornell also has a SEN child who is due to begin school next year. But getting them to the family’s preferred school would mean the youngster travelling 45 minutes alone in the back of a taxi.

“A school on Church Street field would revolutionise the options available to local parents,” said the cabinet member for coastal towns.

“The challenge here is finding a way to build the school and retain some element of public access for local people.”…

Speaking at a KCC young people and education cabinet committee meeting on September 12, Cllr Rory Love noted the concerns of some Whitstable residents but emphasised the benefits of the proposal.

He noted that students being able to attend lessons closer to home would not only reduce unnecessary travel time for children, but also cut down on transport emissions and reduce the transport cost burden for taxpayers.

The planning application for the proposed Whitstable school will eventually be put before Canterbury city planners.

The Swanley school will be able to cater for 250 children.

KCC’s Cabinet member for education and skills, Cllr Rory Love, previously said: “The school in Swanley is required as both schools serving these needs in North Kent are currently full, and the population continues to grow.

“The school in Whitstable is needed because children living locally who require a special school place are having to travel to Thanet or Sittingbourne.”

A protest is being held at County Hall at 11am today calling for better SEN provision in Kent.


bottom of page