Education officials have drawn-up plans to increase the number of places at a special school in Stevenage by formally closing its residential facilities.

Currently Lonsdale School offers 112 places for students – aged between three to 18 – who have physical and neurological impairments.

But plans have been drawn-up to create an additional 20 places at the school by converting residential facilities into teaching spaces.

Education officials say the 26-bed residential facilities at the school, on Brittain Way, have "not been fully operational" at the school since March 2020.

On Monday (September 18), a meeting of the council’s cabinet agreed to consult on the proposals.

As part of the plans, the first floor residential space would be converted into four areas for older students  – each including a large classroom, toilets and learning areas.

This would then create additional space on the ground floor for younger students – without putting a strain on other areas.

For the older children there would be mock living accommodation where they could prepare food, make beds and fold laundry.

Capital funding for the work would be sought from cabinet until after the public consultation.

But, it was reported to the council that the proposal could save around £1.36m a year – which would be the cost of similar out-of-county placements for 20 students.

Presenting the proposal, executive member for education, libraries and lifelong learning Cllr Caroline Clapper said the proposals would provide places for students who would not otherwise have a suitable Hertfordshire school place for 2024.

At the meeting it was also reported that demand for special school places in the county had "grown sharply in recent years" – and that most of the county’s special schools were already full.

Cllr Clapper said the county council was looking to provide 1,000 special school places by 2027.

She pointed to other decisions and consultations at the meeting that could ultimately lead to 100 new special school places in Hertfordshire.

Welcoming the plans for additional places, executive member for children young people and families Cllr Fiona Thomson said: ”Throughout each of these reports there’s an increase of 100 additional spaces which is incredible.

“We know capacity is an issue for children with SEND. And I am really pleased to see these coming forward.”

Public consultation on the Lonsdale School proposal is expected to run for five weeks, from September 26.