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Suffolk makes bid for new autism special school to address shortfall of hundreds of places

PUBLISHED: 16:00 05 November 2018

Suffolk County Council has put in a bid to the Department for Education for a new special free school Picture: THINKSTOCK

Suffolk County Council has put in a bid to the Department for Education for a new special free school Picture: THINKSTOCK

ThinkStock

Proposals have been submitted by Suffolk’s education team for a new special school in the county, amid a “crisis” in special education needs provision.

Data showing the rising demand for SEN provision in Suffolk Picture: ARCHANTData showing the rising demand for SEN provision in Suffolk Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk County Council confirmed it had submitted a bid to the Department for Education last month under the latest wave of free special school applications.

It aims to develop a specialist autism facility, which will cater for 60 pupils from school years 3-11.

It is understood the county will find out early next year if its bid was successful.

A county council spokeswoman said: “The bid was submitted in line with the free school wave submission process and was submitted on the 15 October 2018.

Jack Abbott, Labour education spokesman, said Suffolk's SEN provision was in Jack Abbott, Labour education spokesman, said Suffolk's SEN provision was in "crisis" Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

“The free school process does not detail a response date for success other than early 2019.

“The decision was taken to request an ASC [autism spectrum condition] special school based on the growth data illustrated within the special education needs [SEN] sufficiency plan, the impact will be that young people with ASC will be able to access provision close to their home, access specialist support to help them fulfil their education potential and to extend the LA’s local offer.”

A report prepared for the county council’s cabinet meeting in September revealed the organisation was struggling to meet demand for special education needs places, with a projected rise in demand of 18% in the next two years.

Education chiefs said a further 300-400 new places would be needed in the next two years alone – the equivalent of three or four new special schools.

It is also having to find the places, which has resulted in a projected overspend of £1.5-2million this year on SEN, amid a funding headache of more than £7m overspend by the end of the financial year across the council.

Conservative cabinet member for finance Richard Smith has already warned that £25m of cutbacks will feature in next year’s budget and said that no department will be immune.

Data published under Freedom of Information laws this month revealed one in three applications for a special school placement were turned down or sent outside the county, prompting Labour’s education spokesman Jack Abbott to brand the situation a “crisis”.

A task force is due to meet in January to discuss ways to help the county’s SEN provision.

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