Green light from Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet to develop more specialist education placements in Suffolk to meet growing demand

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Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet has agreed recommendations to move forward with creating more specialist education places in Suffolk.

Between 300 to 400 places are needed for children with additional needs in Suffolk between now and 2020 and this figure is likely to continue to increase. The demand for specialist education places in Suffolk is rising rapidly due to the county’s population growth, advances in medicine and the increasing complexity of specialist needs.

The recommendations include three new special schools and 36 specialist units attached to existing mainstream schools, which combine will create over 800 hundred new specialist education places in the county.

It is also been agreed that a clarified education pathway for specialist provision is created to assist families in understanding what the local offer is.

Following the approval of the recommendations today the proposal to borrow up to £45.1 million to fund the new places will now go to the county council’s Capital Strategy Group to be reviewed. If agreed, the decision will go back to Cabinet in the Spring for final sign-off so the recommendations can be rolled out.  

Councillor Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said:

“I welcome today’s decision.

“Suffolk County Council is committed to ensuring all of Suffolk’s children and young people are able to attend a good local school, one that meets their individual needs and supports them to achieve their full potential regardless of the challenges they may face.

“The decision today will help to create hundreds of more specialist school places across the county, reducing our dependence on placements outside of Suffolk, which come at a high cost, and transforming the experience of education for our children and young people with SEND.”

Jo Hammond, Co-Chair of Suffolk Parent Carer Network (SPCN), said:

“We very much welcome this news, particularly at a time where there seems to be no relent in the on-going challenges families with children and young people with SEND face, due to lack of resources. 

“We are hopeful that this much needed investment will be fundamental in changing the lived experience of so many of our families and we will continue to be their voice during these future developments.”

Jo Dedicoat, Headteacher at Dale Hall Community Primary School, said:

“The news that Suffolk is finally going to be able to offer our children the provision they so desperately need will be a life line for so many families and schools. 

“There has been a significant rise in the need to provide specialist targeted provision and support for pupils and their families, in particular those experiencing complex mental health issues.  

“The proposal to not only increase the provision, but to use mainstream schools to facilitate a new type of inclusive specialist unit, will ensure that our pupils will have the chance to access a full curriculum alongside their peers. This means schools will finally be able to provide the nurture, counselling and therapeutic support that these children need and enable schools to provide the very best educational outcomes for their pupils.”

Lisa Nobes, Chief Nurse, NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, said:

“It is so important that we give our young people the very best start in life, which is why I am so pleased with this decision.

“We know that a good education is integral to having the best chance of living a happy and healthy life. The creation of many more local suitable educational placements is a big step forward in ensuring everyone has that opportunity.

“The CCGs will continue to work with our educational partners to commission services that support the good health and wellbeing of our county’s young people.”