Educational opportunities for children with Special Education Needs in Somerset have had a big boost from Somerset County Council.
A new £600k a state-of-the-art centre to support pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has now opened its doors in Taunton, while plans to build a new special school in Taunton (Hazelbrook Campus) and another in Bridgwater (Bower Lane) have taken a huge step forward.
The projects are a core part of the Council’s strategy to ensure pupils with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) can be educated closer to home. As well as being better for the children, it reduces transport costs and makes it easier for families to engage with the school and the school to develop its sense of community.
Cllr Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families said: “I am delighted with all three projects. One is already open and the other two are making great strides forward. These are the next steps in ensuring we have the right provision in the right places for Somerset’s children.
We always do all we can to support children with SEND to attend mainstream school where this is appropriate and also make sure that those with the highest level of need have the right provision. These projects will ensure that children with all levels of need can be educated close to home in their own communities.”
The new ASD Cedars Centre unveiled at Heathfield School in Taunton means the school can now offer this specialist support to 20 pupils. The project saw the former West Monkton Primary School remodelled to accommodate the upgraded facilities. It replaces the original Cedars Centre which catered for just eight pupils.
Head Teacher of Heathfield Community School Peter Hoare, said: “We’re delighted with our fantastic purpose-built centre which means we can support more pupils.
“But it’s important to remember that inclusion is not just about a building, it’s about an attitude.
“The idea is that there is a revolving door between Cedars and the mainstream school so pupils get the support they need and then join mainstream classes when they are prepared and ready.
“Our expectations for pupils using the Cedars are the same as any other pupil in the Heathfield Community.”
Contractors have now arrived on site to build the £9 million Hazelbrook Campus in Taunton, an expansion of Selworthy School. The school will cater for up to 100 pupils with a range of SEND, including autism.
It will meet the demand for places for local children with complex additional needs and ensure they can access education much closer to home – saving money on transport and helping families to engage more closely with the school.
Willmott Dixon has been contracted to build the school and it is due to open by September 2019.
In Bridgwater, design work is progressing well for a new £18 million 160-pupil school on a site on Bower Lane – subject to planning and funding.
The building, on council-owned land, would replace the existing school buildings at Elmwood and Penrose and cater for children with the most complex needs, including those with significant mobility needs.
The new building is expected include therapy spaces as well as all the key equipment necessary to support its pupils – aged four to 16.