Wimborne special school to expand amid increased demand

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image captionThe old Wimborne First School site could be used to create special needs school places

A disused school site could be used to create more special school spaces to tackle a surge in demand.

The number of young people in Dorset with special educational, health and care needs has almost doubled since 2015, according to the local authority.

Councillors are being asked to approve plans to use the former Wimborne First School site to expand provision for Beaucroft School.

If agreed, it would create 80 places with a focus on post-16 education.

Dorset Council said the number of children and young people in the county requiring special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision had risen from 1,500 in 2015 to 2,800 in 2000.

It said the new centre would reduce its reliance on independent providers, which costs the council about £60,000 a year, per child.

By comparison, it said its own special schools cost about £22,000 per child.

About 250 children and young people are currently attending independent schools, costing the council £14m a year.

'Not enough provision'

The shortage of places also means some are forced to travel out of the county.

Education councillor Andrew Parry said: "At present, some children and young people must travel for educational provision, sometimes far from home because, with continued growth in demand, there currently is not enough provision in Dorset to meet their needs."

In 2019 Dorset Council paid thousands of pounds to a boy with autism after he was left without proper education for two years.

The findings prompted a review of eight other cases.

Dorset Council said it had secured £37.5m of funding for the next five years to improve its SEND provision.

Cabinet members are being asked to approve plans for the Wimborne site at a meeting on Tuesday.

If agreed, there will be a four week consultation before the cabinet makes the final decision.

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