Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has agreed a number of proposals to increase the provision for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in Lancashire over the next five years.
The county council needs to support the increasing number of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) that are developed for children and young people. An increase of 42% was experienced between 2014 and 2019.
Ensuring that as many children as possible are educated in mainstream schools that are suitable to fit their needs is a paramount commitment of the county council, as well as ensuring that appropriate sufficient specialist provision is available.
It is expected that at least another 213 special school places will be needed within the next five years.
The county council is investing an additional £10m to support children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
County Councillor Phillippa Williamson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: “One of our key responsibilities at the county council is making sure that there are enough school places to meet demand.
“It is important that children with special educational needs and disabilities are able to have the most appropriate school place, and we are fully committed to achieving this.
“The reality is that we are facing an increasing demand for places. In this context the actions that we have agreed to take will go some way towards addressing the need for more special school places in certain parts of the county, and maximise the resources that we have available.
“Our commitment to providing the best possible educational experience to all of our young people will always underpin the decisions that are taken.”
At the meeting held today (Thursday 16 January), the main recommendations agreed by Cabinet were to:
• Approve, for wider consultation, the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Sufficiency Strategy 2019 – 2024, which sets out a range of medium and longer term actions
• Approve the commencement of feasibility design work for two proposed capital projects for Broadfield Specialist College, Oswaldtwistle, and Sir Tom Finney Community High School, Preston
• Approve the commencement of an informal process for seeking expressions of interest from mainstream schools to support the development of special educational needs units in localities in need of additionally resourced mainstream provision
• Approve the commencement of feasibility design work for the projects at Stepping Stones Short Stay School, Lancaster and on The Haven site, Thornton – Cleveleys, in line with statutory processes
• To implement the proposals identified within these recommendations where they are consistent with the report presented to cabinet in August 2019 and the Sufficiency Strategy.
The Sufficiency Strategy helps the county council to meet increases in demand, as well as supporting more children and young people to be educated in mainstream schools.
It also aims to ensure that a range of different types of provision are available, and also that the right support is provided at the right time. This provision should be available within the local community for children and young people as much as possible.
Following the county council’s recent successful application to the government for additional funding of £3.5m to be able to support more children with complex needs and disabilities (SEND), two options are being considered to provide some of the specialist places.
The first option would see the relocation of Broadfield Specialist School in Oswaldtwistle to the site of Hameldon Community College in Burnley to create an additional 60 places.
The second option would use space at Sir Tom Finney Community High School in Preston to create up to an additional 100 places.
Further detailed consideration will now take place regarding the proposals, including a formal consultation and a meeting with parents to ensure that their views are considered.
The Sufficiency Strategy will help the county council to work with schools and their partners in order to understand how the right places can be made available for children and young people in the future.
Other options that are being taken forward include the establishment of 12 primary and 12 secondary SEND units attached to mainstream schools in Accrington, Burnley, Colne, Fleetwood, Lancaster, Leyland, Lytham, Morecambe, Nelson, Ormskirk, Preston and Skelmersdale.
Capacity will also be increased for primary and secondary aged pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs in Lancaster, Morecambe, Fleetwood and Lytham by opening the Haven school site in Thornton – Cleveleys, and increasing the capacity at Stepping Stones Short Stay School in Lancaster.
The additional places will offer specialist support and tailored facilities, helping those with complex needs to succeed.
Lancashire County Council has already committed an additional £6.5 million to provide much needed provision for children and young people with SEND.
Parents will be kept fully informed of any proposals which go forward.