Specialist schools set for £45.6million boost in Suffolk

Councillor Gordon Jones Picture: SIMON LEE/SCC

Councillor Gordon Jones Picture: SIMON LEE/SCC - Credit: Archant

Suffolk is set to benefit from £45.6million of extra funding to meet increasing demand for specialist school places.

The county council announced it was pushing ahead with funding for plans to create more specialist education places in Suffolk.

It follows an inspection of the special educational needs and disability (SEND) service by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, which found enough progress had not been made in three of four areas identified for improvement in 2017.

Recommendations by a policy development panel, and backed by education cabinet member, Gordon Jones, for up to £45.6m to support development of provision closer to home will be considered by the cabinet on April 23.

The council said it wanted to create more places to give young people the best possible start with the right level of tailored support.

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A 2017 assessment of SEND provision identified weaknesses and made a priority of improving the ‘local offer’ information – the database of education services available for parents.

Investment will follow work by a cross-party policy development panel, established to identify suitable places as promptly as possible. The green light to move forward was given at the cabinet’s committee meeting in January.

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Further work has since taken place by the capital strategy group to provide an overview of the required level of investment.

The £45.6m – half from capital investment and half borrowed – will create more than 800 places, with three new special schools and 36 specialist units attached to mainstream schools.

A significant number of units will be opened by September 2020.

Proposals include complex, social, emotional and mental health provision on the Riverwalk site, Bury St Edmunds, and two sites in Ipswich and north Suffolk for complex communication and interaction needs.

Mr Jones, said: “We must take swift and effective action to address both the current shortfall of SEND Services in our county, but also build capacity with our partners for future demand and it is vital we have the financial commitment to do this.”

Lisa Nobes, of the Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, said: “This much needed investment will go a long way towards improving services for children and young people with SEND in Suffolk.”

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