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Gloucestershire Business News

Decision expected on new multi-million pound school

A decision is expected early next week on whether Gloucestershire County Council will approve more than £7.5 million to fund a new school in the county.

The council's full cabinet is due to meet on Wednesday, October 9, to consider whether to agree to releasing the funds for a new school for children with social, emotional and mental health needs, which would open in 2022.

According to the council "the SEMH specialist school will help those children who can't currently reach their full potential in a mainstream school and support them to return to mainstream education where possible".

The council is currently not able to meet its statutory duty of offering enough places within the county for children and young people with SEMH, which forces many to live away or travel long distances to get the education they are entitled to.

Cllr Patrick Molyneux, cabinet member for economy, education and skills, said: "Our priority is to make sure all children in Gloucestershire get the education they deserve, which is why we are investing over £100 million into our schools.

"National statistics show that children with social, emotional and mental health needs often don't reach the same level of progress as their peers and it is vital that we improve the life chances of these children."

Cabinet will also be asked to approve £215,000 to adapt and extend Belmont Special School so they can support a greater number of children, and £75,000 for improvements at the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Alternative Provision School (CTAPS).

The proposed site for the new school is in Brockworth, "easily accessible to both Gloucester and Cheltenham where there is the highest level of demand for this type of specialist education".

It will provide 75 places for girls and boys aged 11 to 16, who currently have to travel to schools out of county or to independent schools to meet their specific needs.

It is estimated this will save the council almost £2 million per year in placement and transport costs, and will aim to allow pupils "access to the education they need closer to home".

A report called Guidance for Officers published to help councillors with their decision on the new school states that the county council has a statutory duty to ensure "there are sufficient school places available within its area for every child of school age whose parents/carers wish them to have one".

"There is a resultant shortfall in the level of appropriate, high quality day places for secondary aged children and young people with SEMH needs in Gloucestershire."

The report adds: "The High Needs Strategy, approved by Cabinet in January 2019, confirms the need for increased specialist day provision for children of secondary age with SEMH needs and makes a commitment to enabling children to have their needs met locally.

"The shortage of a local provision capable of meeting the increasing number of children and young people in this specific group means the local authority has to rely on commissioning places at independent and non maintained settings, often some distance from where the young person lives.

"The distances involved can result in these placements needing to be residential in nature. The council currently has 98 SEMH pupils in these types of schools at a cost of £4.45m pa.

"Increasing local provision will reduce the Council's reliance on the Independent/non-maintained special school sector, saving an estimated £1.5m annually in placements costs and £360,000 in transport costs."

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