***(UK) Wokingham expands SPED school; plans made for new autism school

Feb 2, 2019, Bracknell News: Councillor slams other local authorities for 'piggybacking' off council special needs Wokingham school investments A councillor has slammed other local authorities for “piggybacking” off the council’s multi-million pound planned expansion of a Wokingham school for children with special educational needs (SEN). The authority’s top branch has approved a £4.4m [$5.8 US dollars] expansion to Addington School in Woodley in order to increase its capacity by 50 places, subject to planning permission being granted. A report indicated that 35 of Addington’s pupils are not from the borough, while 133 children with SEN who are from the borough are educated at schools run by other local authorities. And councillor Anthony Pollock, executive member for finance at Wokingham Borough Council, said: “The fact we are selling our places to other local authorities is awful”. Before the council approved the investment, he added: “Other people are piggybacking off the back of it…. A council report explained that parents from other local authorities can ask that Addington School is listed as a school option for their child in their education and health care plans. And despite the report stating that “there is a clear interest for the council to protect any investment for additional special school places for Wokingham borough residents” it also made clear that WBC authority can only refuse places for children with SEN who reside outside of the borough if there was “very good grounds” to do so. The council spends £18m [$24M US] a year on supporting children with SEN in Wokingham, and a lack of local spaces combined with high costs for transporting children with SEN to other schools outside the borough means the authority anticipates a £2.3m [$3M US] deficit in this area for the 2018/2019 financial year. In addition to the £4.4m [$5.8M US] investment in Addington School, the council’s top branch also approved to develop proposals for another special free school in the borough for children with autism and social emotional and mental health difficulties, as well as improved accomodation at the Foundry College and measures to support the retention of children in mainstream schools. It is anticipated that another 125 places will be needed for SEN children by 2023 after a surge in the 0-25 population in the coming years. This means the number of Wokingham borough children at special schools would increase from 339 to 464 in the next four years. Addington School currently provides places for 206 children….