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We invest £9.7 million to create more special needs school places

Published: 21 May 2024

The number of school places for children with special needs is increasing by around 500 as part of a £9.7 million investment we’re making to support vulnerable learners.

We’re working with headteachers from special schools across Derbyshire to increase the number of commissioned places available for children with special needs under its 5-year plan.

Since 2020, we’ve been working with our special schools to maximise capacity through better use of existing space and have increased the number of spaces we commission from them by more than 200 from 1,022 to 1,227.

Now, following the release of SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) capital funding we have committed to further increase the number of special school places during the forthcoming academic year 2024/25 to around 1,360 and again during 2025/26 to just over 1,500 with a projected £9.7 million spend.

An initial additional 130 plus places will start to be filled from this year’s September term with the intake continuing to increase throughout the academic year.

By working with maintained and academy special schools to expand places across the county, rather than seeking to build one or two new special schools in specific areas, it is hoped the new places will be better geographically spread and be accessible to as many Derbyshire families as possible.

Our investment in special school places is part of a wider three-strand project which also includes creating additional places to promote inclusion for children with special needs in mainstream schools, by investing in Enhanced Resource Schools (ERS), SEND Units and alternative provision, which is education provided outside a school setting arranged by the county council or by schools themselves.

To ensure the SEND funding is used as effectively as possible, we’ve taken a partnership approach with schools to review and improve services, widen partner involvement, provide additional staff training and improve communication.

Our Cabinet Member for Education Councillor Alex Dale said:

“This significant £9.7 million investment and close collaboration with special school leaders reaffirms our commitment to fostering an inclusive educational environment where every child has access to the resources they need to thrive.

“We want to give every child in Derbyshire the best possible start in life and this initiative reflects our ongoing commitment to enhancing educational opportunities to support the county’s most vulnerable learners.

“We’ll take a phased approach to introducing new places from September to ensure a smooth integration of new students and to allow schools to adequately prepare for the increased enrolment over the coming years.

“We’d already increased the number of special school places available by 200 to around 1,230 between 2020 and 2023 and now, working with schools, our plans show our ongoing commitment and sustainable long-term view to support an increasing number of children with special needs in school.

“To support this growth, and as an initial first step as part of our three-phase plan, we’re allocating substantial capital funds to these special schools which is crucial to allow them to develop the necessary enhancements and accommodation needed to serve a larger number of students effectively.

“Our wider plan focuses on promoting inclusion in across all our schools as evidence shows that many children with special needs will thrive in a mainstream setting with the right support in place.

“Work has been ongoing with mainstream schools for several months and we have gone through an expressions of interest process with them to establish where we can best use the remaining SEND capital funding we’ve been provided with by the Government to promote inclusion, with more ERS, SEND unit and alternative provision places and a good geographic spread across the county to ensure they are as accessible as possible to all Derbyshire families.

“We hope to be able to make some initial announcements on this part of the plan in the coming months and we’ll continue working very hard to ensure every Derbyshire child can reach their full potential, whatever their ability and whatever challenges they may face.”

In line with all school building and development projects the expansion of additional places will be subject to planning and construction processes and procedures.