Big step forward for plans to build new special needs school between Northampton and Towcester

Council report reveals struggle to cope with demand for places

Friday, 17th June 2022, 10:25 am

Plans to build a 250-place special needs school between Northampton and Towcester took a step forward after councillors published more details for academy trusts who may bid to run it.

The new school will be an ‘all-through special educational needs and disability’ school, meaning it will cater for children of all ages — specifically those with autistic spectrum condition, speech, language and communication needs and severe learning difficulties.

The old St John’s site, near Gateway School, in Tiffield has emerged as a possible location for the school and it is hoped it will see its first intake in September 2024.

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Cabinet member Cllr Fiona Baker admits pressure for SEND school places in West Northamptonshire is "immense"

Councillor Fiona Baker, West Northamptonshire Council cabinet member for education on the Tory-run council, said: “The pressure for SEND places is intense.

“As they are, mainstream schools simply do not have the capacity to take on more SEND pupils and the private sector in the county has also reached its limit.

“And sending children across county borders is not the best for them and in the longer term, not financially sustainable.

“There’s a well-regulated process which we must now follow, but I would urge anyone with the necessary skills and experience to study these specifications and step forward to support your community.”

Latest plans for the new school were revealed in a council report which admitted all the areas special schools except one are over capacity with 1,060 children in 940 places.

This has resulted in students being forced to travel long distances to school with some being transported outside the area putting a strain on council finances.

Numbers of children on the autistic spectrum are expected to increase by 40 percent over the next three years while a 25 percent increase is forecast in the overall number of children needing specialist education by 2025.

Half of those will be in the new special school ready under plans first revealed in May while the council’s SEND sufficiency strategy, which will also see the establishment of 259 places within units attached to mainstream schools and extensions to existing special schools located within West Northamptonshire.

Publishing the proposed specification follows the start of the free school presumption process in May during which the council gained broad support for the new school from the region’s special education sector.

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