Consultation to make Woodfield Community Primary a school for children with autism

31 May 2023

North Yorkshire Council is to consult on a proposal to open a school for children with autism at the site of the former Woodfield Community Primary School in Harrogate.

It was agreed on Tuesday (30 May 2023) to further explore the proposed project, which would provide much-needed school places for children and young people with autism in North Yorkshire.

A total of £3.5 million has been earmarked to allow potential upgrading of the site to enable it to cater for up to 80 pupils with autism aged between 11 and 19.

The decision comes as children and young people in North Yorkshire with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are set to benefit from a £20 million investment, which includes the creation of new places in Special Schools and mainstream SEN Resource Bases.

Since 2016, the number of children and young people with identified SEND and an education, health and care plan (EHCP) has increased by over 110 per cent in North Yorkshire. As this trend continues, 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.

Woodfield Community Primary School closed at the end of December after years of falling pupil numbers and an “inadequate” rating by Ofsted. Officers believe the site is suitable for a new special school due to its layout and location in a central part of the county.

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

I’m delighted that the council is to explore this proposal. The new facility would help meet a rising demand for special school places in Harrogate, Knaresborough, Ripon and the surrounding area.

Currently there are 432 children with the primary need of autism accessing existing North Yorkshire special schools and we are committed to providing further support.

This would provide children and families with a more local offer of provision than is currently available without significant travel.

A stakeholder consultation is to be undertaken for a six-week period from Monday, June 12. The potential opening date for the new school is September 2024.

There are no planned changes to the community library and children’s centre on the same site.

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