Two new schools for children with special needs are being planned in the Wokingham borough.
The council’s executive agreed at its September 29 meeting it would seek funding for the two schools for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Fast increasing numbers of children with educational, health and care plans have left many having to travel outside the borough for school because Wokingham has only two suitable SEND schools, Addington School in Woodley and Chiltern Way Academy in Wokingham with a third, Oak Tree in Winnersh, due to open in September 2023.
The council has earmarked parts of potential development sites at Rooks Nest Farm (pictured) and Grays Farm as suitable locations for the new schools. If the funding bid from the Department for Education is successful, the schools could be ready for September 2026.
The council has a £4.3 million deficit in this year’s budget for schooling for children with SEND.
Cllr Prue Bray, executive member for children’s services, said: “It is a priority for us to make sure that the most in need of support in the borough get local access to high quality services.
“The increasing number of children having to spend additional time travelling, just to receive an education that is right for them, is something we need to address.
“The two schools would not only offer children the benefits that come with going to school within their own communities, but the cost savings also mean we would be able to divert funds away from educating children out of borough, such as school transport, and into increasing our offer locally.
Having more state-funded provision in the borough would also enable us to reduce our dependency on very expensive independent schools, without compromising on quality, although some specialised independent provision will always be required to ensure we can meet the needs of every child.”
Image: Rook’s Nest Farm by Sandy B, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
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