Major boost to special needs places planned at two schools in Thornton Cleveleys and Fleetwood

A school in Wyre for children with special needs looks set to expand for the second time in six months.

Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 1:11 pm

Red Marsh School in Thornton-Cleveleys established a “satellite” site at Northfold Community Primary School on Ringway earlier this year - two miles from its main base on Holly Road.

That move saw the school’s overall roll expand by 30 places to 124 - and now plans are afoot to add a further 20 places at the new facility, which occupies what was previously a vacant building at Northfold.

A formal public consultation will now be carried out into the latest proposal, after the process was given the go-ahead by Lancashire County Council’s cabinet.

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Chaucer Community Primary School is Fleetwood is to house a new special needs unit (image: Google)

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Red Marsh - which caters for pupils with learning difficulties, aged between two and 19 - was said to be “oversubscribed” when cabinet members approved the initial expansion last November.

Deputy county council leader Alan Vincent - who represents the Cleveleys South and Carleton division on the authority - welcomed the proposal for further places, describing the school as one with “a really good reputation”. It is currently rated as “outstanding” by the regulator, OFSTED.

Meanwhile, Chaucer Community Primary School in Fleetwood is to create a special needs unit attached to its mainstream facilities, as part of Lancashire-wide plans to develop a network of such provision across the county.

Red Marsh School has expanded once already this year - now it is hoping to do so again (image: Red Marsh School)

Cabinet members gave the green light to the new unit - for up to 16 pupils with social, communication and interaction needs - following a public consultation which was undertaken earlier this year. Seven of the eight responses received were supportive of the plans, which will not require building work. The places are expected to be available from this September.

Deputy Labour opposition group leader Lorraine Beavers - who represents Fleetwood East - said that it was “wonderful undertaking” for mainstream schools like Chaucer Primary, and two others in Clitheroe and Skelmersdale, to agree to accommodate special needs facilities.

However, she expressed concern about ongoing moves for schools - particularly Catholic and Church of England schools in Lancashire - to become academies.

“What concerns me is that we…build some form of unit and then [the school] turns into an academy - and all of a sudden it’s then a business.

Red Marsh School's extra pupils have been accommodated in a buildong at the nearby Northfold Community Primary School on Ringway - and more could soon be joining them (image: Google)

“We may be financing future academies and I’m not really happy with taxpayers’ money being used for that,” County Cllr Beavers added.

County Cllr Vincent said he would be “surprised” if Chaucer Primary – based on Chaucer Road in the town - considered becoming an academy.

Commenting more generally on the new units, he added: “We can't penalise the children, because the governors might take a decision at some unspecified future date to take the school into academy [status] - because the bottom line, in any event, is that the schools won’t disappear, they will still continue to educate children…in their respective areas.

“So whatever we think about academies one way or the other...I think we just have to do this, because all these schools are good schools that can teach children well and will accommodate and love these children - and that’s what we should be looking at,” said County Cllr Vincent.

Cabinet member for education and skills Jayne Rear added that the council was “obliged” to provide the necessary special needs places for children - whatever the future status of the expanded schools.

The government wants all schools to become academies by 2030.

The cabinet also approved a consultation into the expansion of a special school in South Ribble, while plans for an entirely new school in Lancaster for children with social, emotional and mental health needs were also set in motion.