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(UK) S. Wales: Newport school to open autism unit; "rise in number diagnosed with ASD"

June 8, 2023, S. Wales Argus: Newport council plan for autism unit at Llanwern High School

THERE are hopes the opening of a new unit at a Newport high school will transform the education of current and future students with additional needs.

The city council is set to approve plans for a specialist centre for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to open at Llanwern High School in September.

As well as benefiting pupils, the new unit will ease pressures on "oversubscribed" services at other high schools in Newport, and create new jobs for teachers and other staff.

It will also mean fewer city children with ASD have to travel further afield for their education.

The council said the new unit was necessary because of a rise in the number of children diagnosed with ASD.

"The identified needs of pupils in Newport schools shows that demand for places in ASD specialist provision is exceeding current provision available within the city," a council report read.

Llanwern High previously housed a unit for children who had emotional and behavioural difficulties, but its funding was axed six years ago and the handful of pupils it supported were transferred into mainstream education.

If the new ASD unit is approved, it will likely open in the same facility at Llanwern, described as a "secure, separate area of the school building" with its own entrance.

The council said Llanwern High was "one of the few schools in Newport with capacity to host this provision - the school is currently operating under its measured capacity and has been for several years".

The new unit will be a "20-place specialist base" for pupils with ASD, and the council estimates the running costs will be around £25,000 [$31,000] per student, or nearly £500,000 [$629,000] in total, annually.

But the council hopes the unit will actually save it money in the long run because "establishment of the base may reduce the need for out-of-county ASD placements" which have an estimated annual cost of £53,000 [$67,000] per student, excluding transport costs….

A new ASD unit could also "see an increase in numbers of staff, providing valuable job opportunities within the organisation for teaching and support staff", they added.

The council's cabinet member for education will make a decision on the ASD unit proposal next week.


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