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(UK) Walsall: Council considers $24M for 197 more special ed places

Mar 15, 2024, Walsall Council: Cabinet asked to approve £18.6 million [$24M] to fund more special educational needs school places

W. Midlands

Walsall Council Cabinet members will be asked to approve £18.6 million of funding at a committee meeting next week. If approved, the funding would create 197 additional special educational needs (SEN) school places in the borough.

The report, which will be presented at Cabinet on Wednesday 20 March 2024, is part of an update for members which outlines the current provisions in place for Walsall pupils who have special educational needs, and the council’s approach to manage growing demand up until 2028.

When a child has additional needs that go beyond what is offered through SEN support, an education health and care (EHC) assessment can be arranged.  

Once assessed, an EHC plan will be created to identify a child’s educational, health and social needs, and set out what support will be provided to meet those needs. In the last four years, the number of children with EHC plans in Walsall has increased by 125%, and by the 2027/28 academic year, it is estimated that 1985 pupils with EHC plans will require specialist school places in Walsall.

The report outlines there are currently 1121 specialist school places in the borough, which indicates a shortfall of up to 740 places.

Substantial improvements to the EHC plan process have already been made, and the report explains the council’s plans to further strengthen this process, and how it will work with schools to help reduce the shortfall as much as possible and reduce demand of specialist school places.  

However, considering such significant demand pressures, the report outlines a mix of proposals - some immediate and some long-term - for Cabinet’s review and approval.

Immediate proposals include a fifth stage of development to Oakwood Early Development Centre, which would create 50 additional places, and renovating vacant nursery, Rowley Robins, which would create 47 additional places.  

Cabinet will be asked to approve upgrades to facilities within its mainstream schools which would create an additional 100 places, and allocate budget to improve and adapt buildings suitably for pupil’s additional needs.

The report also explains proposed plans for pupil referral unit, New Leaf. In 2019, due to inadequate building standards, the unit had to relocate to a ‘temporary’ site, with plans to move to new premises once developed. The report goes onto clarify that the once ‘temporary’ site, will now be suitable for permanent premises, subject to some improvements. This suggests a council saving of £3.1 million, having originally forecasted the cost of relocation at approximately £8 million in 2019.

“ The council has a statutory duty to provide sufficient school places for all of Walsall’s children and young people, so they can access their right to an appropriate education. . . .

As explained in the report, we will continue to work closely with schools to manage demand of specialist school places in the coming academic years, to try and reduce the shortfall as much as possible. “


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