Location revealed for new Ipswich special school
- Credit: Archant
Suffolk’s crisis-hit special educational needs service has been handed a boost as funding has been confirmed for a new school in Ipswich.
The new school will be built on derelict land next to the old test centre in Woodbridge Road, and cater for 60 pupils aged 7-16 who have complex communication and interaction needs,
Suffolk County Council had already announced a package of £45.1million being pumped into creating 828 new specialist placements, including new schools in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft and new units attached to mainstream schools, but education chiefs have confirmed the latest bid is in addition to that provision.
It is not yet clear how much the successful bid is for, but the new school is expected to open in 2022.
Councillor Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said: “This is an exciting step forward in our plans to increase educational provision for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities in Suffolk.
“We know that demand for provision is increasing and we need to be able to meet that demand.
“The Department for Education feels the same way which is why they have agreed to allocate funding to establish a new SEND free school in the Ipswich area.
“The next important step is to secure a suitable sponsor for the prospective free school.
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“We are asking for expressions of interest and hope to be able to announce a sponsor by winter 2019/20.”
A task force was set up by the council last year to come up with new places after data revealed a soaring 18% increase in demand and a shortage of between 300 and 400 places.
A re-inspection of the county’s special educational needs and disability (SEND) service in January by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission found serious improvements were needed in three out of the four areas assessed.
Education chiefs said the new school would help meet the high demand in Ipswich, and help prevent families having to send their child to school either further away in the county or out of Suffolk entirely.
Jo Hammond, co-chair of Suffolk Parent Carer Network, said: “It is great news that Suffolk has yet again been successful in the free-school bidding process, this can only be a positive step towards strengthening Suffolk’s local offer for some of our most vulnerable learners.
“We very much welcome all of the conversations and developments that are currently happening around specialist education placements and will continue to work alongside the local authority on behalf of our families to ensure the needs of our children and young people are met throughout the process.”
Labour education spokesman Jack Abbott said: “It is welcome that a new special school is on the way, the places of which are desperately needed to start tackling the crisis of SEND provision in Suffolk.
“However, before the council gives itself a self-congratulatory pat on the back for a job well done, they perhaps need to gain a little perspective as there is still a long, long way to go.
“The predicament the council currently finds itself in has been a result of their chronic under-investment in SEND provision.
“Suffolk is set for an 18% rise in the number of children and young people with SEND by 2020 yet this school will not open its doors for another three years.
“That is why it is critical that detailed plans for further special schools and specialist units – as recommended by the cross-party policy development panel – are revealed as soon as possible.
“Suffolk’s children cannot afford any more delays.”