top of page

(UK) Surrey council to spend $107M for 1,500 special places by 2030

Sept 28, 2021, Surrey Live: New special school building opening delayed until next year

SE England Plans for a new special school for 180 pupils in Dorking are being progressed despite Mole Valley District Council no longer allocating the proposed site for development. Developer Bowmer + Kirkland (B+K) said it does still intend to submit a planning application later this year to build Betchwood Vale Academy on the A25 Reigate Road. The former Chalcraft Nurseries site was set out in the district council’s original Local Plan as land to be developed, but it was removed in a new version voted on earlier this month. Despite this B+K is pressing ahead with revised plans which would provide up to 180 places for pupils aged seven to 19 with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) - and said it could open in time for September 2022. The building is being designed to meet the specific needs of learners with Communication and Interaction Needs (COIN) and Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC), including High Functioning Autism. It would, for example, create a low acoustic environment and enable outdoor learning with a sensory garden and animal therapy. A spokesperson for the Betchwood Vale Academy project team said the “acute need for SEND school places in Surrey has been well documented” and many of the pupils would “otherwise be placed in special schools outside of the county”. Completion of a new special school building in Leatherhead for children with autism has been delayed until January. The Howard Partnership Multi-Academy Trust, which is running the new Fox Grove School, started teaching earlier this month but its 64 pupils are temporarily being taught at a site in Hurst Park, Molesey until next year…. Fox Grove, for children aged between four and 19 with complex social and communication needs, is set to grow over the course of four years to accommodate 152 children. As a free school it is being entirely funded by the Department for Education, and it's being built by Bowmer + Kirkland, which also plan to develop Betchwood Vale Academy in Dorking next year, bringing another 180 SEND places from 2022. The county council said that aside from Fox Grove, it has delivered 220 new specialist school places in Surrey for the academic year 2021/22. As well as the expansion of 17 existing schools, there are two new special educational needs (SEN) units, at Chandlers Field Primary School in West Molesey and Three Rivers Academy in Walton-on-Thames. It is all part of a programme intending to address the soaring demand for SEND places by creating 1,500 by 2030, funded by a £79.6million [$107M U.S.] investment by the county council. Councillor Denise Turner Stewart, cabinet member for education and learning, said: “This increase in specialist school places in Surrey is crucial in ensuring all children and young people have access to high quality local specialist provision.” The county council forked out more than £37,500 after recording 308 complaints about education last year in 2020/21 - an increase of 83 per cent over the past five years. Of these complaints, only 41 per cent were responded to within the council's two-week target. A spokesperson said: "This is not unexpected and is reflective of the challenges being faced nationally by SEND services." She said the longer response times were because of "the increasingly complex nature of concerns shared by families, particularly during the height of the pandemic"….


bottom of page