Following on from the announcement last month that it would be putting in a bid for two new special SEND schools, Wokingham Borough Council has announced further plans to invest in education for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in the borough.
After plans were approved by the executive committee at the end of September, the council can confirm it has now submitted bids to the Department of Education for two new Special Free Schools and expects to hear whether these have been successful in early 2023.
In addition to the free school bids, further plans are proposed to introduce a new tier of SEND education, set to meet the needs of those with more complex needs and bridge the gap between current SEND provision in schools and special schools.
Reviewing our SEND provision
The plans come after a review was completed to better understand the local need now and, in the future, and where there are gaps in SEND provision.
The review showed a significant increase in children needing specialist support. The current resource bases which support children with SEND in mainstream schools, where time is split between the resource base and mainstream classes, are no longer able to meet the needs of all. Some existing resource bases are underused due to changing needs of the local SEND population.
Under new proposals, the council plans to add three new SEND provisions attached to mainstream schools and redesign how some of the existing support is offered. These proposals will increase capacity and respond better to current and future demand while providing more help to schools to support their students. Additionally, they will improve outcomes of young people with SEND and create a clear pathway to meet a wide range of complex needs.
Some of the existing resource bases would be phased out as children reach the next stage in their education. This process that will take several years to allow children to remain where they are until they move to their next school or leave formal education. All children in existing resource bases will be able to continue until they move on to the next phase.
Right support in the right places
“The redesign of our SEND education services comes after a period of review that has allowed us to get an in-depth understanding of how children’s needs are changing over time in the borough,” said Councillor Prue Bray, executive member for children’s services.
“Resource bases provide specialist support, and will continue doing so, to children with SEND to make sure that their needs are being met and that they can couple this with time spent enjoying mainstream education.
“However, the increase of children with specific needs and SEND in general means that these are no longer able to offer all children the right support in the right places where they need it. Introducing SEND units will allow more children to get appropriate support in schools that are local to them.
“We know the phasing out of some resource bases may concern some parents, but we want to reassure them that we’re planning this over several years as children naturally outgrow their current settings, and the education and support offered to pupils receiving provision which is due to be phased out will not change.”
The two new SEND units will be at a primary and secondary school in the borough, and we are aiming for them to be opening to pupils from September 2023 and September 2024.
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