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(UK) Welsh borough sees MORE special needs kids; complexities are MORE severe

Oct 10, 2021, Wales Online: New special school ambition for Rhondda Cynon Taf to cope with increasing pupil numbers https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/new-special-school-ambition-rhondda-21801068

Councillors have given their support to plans for a new special school in Rhondda Cynon Taf to create more capacity and ease pressure on current schools. The council’s cabinet backed the proposal at a meeting on Monday, October 4, to increase the number of special schools in the county borough from four to five. A review has been done into the council’s special school provision and there are currently 600 pupils accessing education across four special schools in RCT. … The cabinet report said there had been a consistent increase in learner numbers in both Ysgol Hen Felin and Ysgol Ty Coch with the former going up from 169 back in 2016/2017 to 191 in September of this year and Ysgol Ty Coch increasing from 137 in 2016/2017 to 185 this year…. The report said it was not just the increasing numbers that needed to be catered for but it was also the increase in the complexities of the children’s needs and the staffing numbers required to meet need. The report also said it seemed “inevitable” that the number of pupils would continue to grow over the next five to 10 years with options to extend the current sites now limited. Works to increase the capacity at Ysgol Hen Felin have started and a two classroom building is due for completion by the end of the year. This would provide much needed additional space at the school site to cater for the additional numbers currently on roll at the school site, the report said. Further works at Ysgol Ty Coch have been carried out over the summer holidays with remodelling done to increase the capacity on the existing school site. Plans are also progressing to add a building on Buarth y Capel with the objective of increasing the capacity here too. The cabinet report said the only feasible alternative was to build a brand new provision on a new site, growing the special school provision within the county borough and increasing the number of special schools from four to five. The report said: “The benefits to the council will include financial benefits in terms of cost avoidance in relation to very costly out of county placements for learners with the most complex medical and health needs…. Councillor Joy Rosser, the cabinet member for education, said the number of pupils at special schools in RCT had risen from 483 in 2014 to 600 this year, an increase of 24%. She also said that there had been an increase in the complexity of need as well as the numbers of pupils. Councillor Pauline Jarman, leader of the Plaid Cymru group on the council, said it was “excellent news” that the council was in a position to invest in a new special school. She said it needed to be located centrally to all three valleys as travel could be a challenge for learners.