New school bid is lodged

Coun Graham Cain

Coun Graham Cain

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A new 48-place school for children with additional needs could open in Blackpool, it has been revealed.

The council has submitted a bid to the government for the school, which would cater for 10 to 16-year- olds currently travelling to schools outside the resort.

That isn’t an ideal situation both in terms of the cost to the council and also the long journeys the students have to make every day

Coun Graham Cain, the cabinet member responsible for education in the town, said: “Currently the majority of students with social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) needs are transported out of the borough to independent special schools.

“That isn’t an ideal situation both in terms of the cost to the council and also the long journeys the students have to make every day. The current schools that we use cater for the diverse range of needs for pupils, but do not provide links to the Blackpool local community and, as a result of this, transition back to the area once school placements finish can be difficult.”

As many as 70 youngsters face journeys of around an hour or less, and council chiefs have been discussed the possibility of opening a special free school for some time.

It decided to act after the government launched a bidding process and invited local authorities to express their interest. No potential location for the school has been identified because of the idea’s infancy, and the council has yet to approach any academy trusts to garner interest in running it. But town hall officials say there is a need for such schools, with an increasing pressure on early years’ services for special educational needs.

“This is due to Blackpool being a net importer of need, more babies surviving, who have additional needs and an increasing diagnosis of autism,” a children’s service report by director of people Delyth Curtis said.

Around 2.8 per cent of the overall school population have special needs and the Department for Education says £215m has been made available to help councils ‘grow and enhance’ plans to help them.

It said it will consider all expressions of interest, and expects to ‘create a small number of schools through this process.’