Multi-million pound boost planned for specialist education

28 April 2023

Children and young people in North Yorkshire with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are set to benefit from a £20 million investment towards the development of additional educational services.

Proposals for the funding, which will create new places in schools and early years settings, plus a new school designed around the needs of children with autism, have been given the go-ahead by North Yorkshire Council.

It is estimated that an additional capacity of 350 SEND school places will be required to be developed over the next three to five years.

The investment will enable North Yorkshire Council to find highly suitable placements for more young people closer to their local communities and deliver better value for children and families from the county, including improving existing provision to create modern, fit-for-purpose spaces suited to a wider range of pupil needs.

North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for education, learning and skills, Cllr Annabel Wilkinson, said:

I am delighted that despite the significant resource constraints applying to investing in special schools, we have been able to pull together a programme to address the most urgent challenges in terms of school capacity, deliver in excess of an additional 300 places over the next few years and support more young people to access highly appropriate placements in their local communities.

North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for education, learning and skills, Cllr Annabel Wilkinson
North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for education, learning and skills, Cllr Annabel Wilkinson

Some key elements of the investment programme include:

  • A further expansion of targeted mainstream provisions that will enable young people with significant levels of need to continue to be supported in mainstream settings and receive access to specialist support.
  • The expansion of Springwater Special School in Harrogate, by 45 places.
  • The development of additional capacity in existing special schools.
  • The development of a new secondary school in a central location in the county, which is set to accommodate 80 young people with autism.

The programme also includes funding for essential works at Welburn Hall School, near Kirkbymoorside, where the condition of a historic building requires urgent attention and where the council has recently had to put into effect proposals to pause residential provision for two years from September 2023.

Additional Q&A on the spend:

Is the budget spend approved?

As set out in the report, resources have been agreed and assigned against all element of the programme. Some of the individual projects within the programme have not yet been the subject of detailed project evaluations, and these projects will be the subject of specific approvals when the details of the projects are established.

Do you know over what period the money will be spent?

It is anticipated that the resources will be spent over the next three years – subject to the caveat about detailed project evaluations being required against some elements of the programme.

For understanding, when it says the development of existing capacity in local schools, what does that mean you will do to make that happen?

We will work collaboratively with our local special schools and encourage them to develop proposals on how specific capital projects that will lead to expansions in capacity could be achieved for their particular schools, that offer good value for money, utilise our existing sites effectively and will positively enhance the school environments.

In addition, the programme reflects the success which North Yorkshire Council has recently achieved in securing a free special school in Northallerton through the Department for Education’s (DfE) Free School Programme. The school will support 120 pupils assessed as having additional social, emotional and mental health needs in the north of the county.

This is alongside the Free Special School in Selby, which the council successfully bid for in 2019 and which the DfE are responsible for building.

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