County council agrees to expansion of SEND schools in Herts

Greenside Community Special School, Stevenage and Lakeside Community School, Welwyn Garden City will

Greenside Community Special School, Stevenage and Lakeside Community School, Welwyn Garden City will benefit from new places in September. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

A £2.6 million plan to increase the number of places at SEND schools in our area for the next academic year has been agreed upon by Hertfordshire County Council.

As part of the plans, the number of places at Greenside Community Special School, Stevenage will increase by 16 and a further eight places will be created for Lakeside Community Special School, Welwyn Garden City.

The other school to benefit is Woodfield, in Hemel Hempstead, which will see the largest increase with 32 new available places.

Following a period of public consultation, the county council's cabinet backed the plans last month and agreed for the new statutory places to become available from September 2020.

They also approved funding of £2.63m for necessary improvements at the three schools.

Executive member for education, libraries and localism Cllr Terry Douris said the proposals reflected rising demand for special school places and said the additional places would mean fewer children will be educated out of the county.

Cllr Teresa Heritage, executive member for children, young people and families, said it was important for the well-being of these pupils that they remained in the county, "where we can look after them".

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Cllr Ralph Sangster, executive member for resources and performance, added that the move will reduce financial pressures too - by reducing costs associated with travelling out of the county.

According to a report to the cabinet, there are increasing numbers of children who need a place at a special school - with a number of special schools across the county already full.

The proposals will ensure that the needs of children whose Education Health and Care Plan identify a need for a special school place for children with 'severe learning difficulties' will be met.

Cllr Douris said that the plans to expand places at Stevenage's Greenside and WGC's Lakeside had been met with "signifcant approval".

But, he did highlight "a body of opposition" with concerns relating to the 32 additional places at Woodfield.

Concerns focussed on the impact it would have on the 'small school ethos' and the increased levels of traffic and parking.

However it was reported that, in practice, the 88-pupil school already has 104 pupils on roll - just 16 fewer than the proposed limit.

Of the 47 people who responded to the consultation on the plans for Lakeside Special School, just one residents said they disagreed - with a further four saying they 'didn't know'.

And at Greenside there were 22 responses to the plans. Four disagreed, 15 agreed and three said they 'didn't know'.