Extra special educational needs spaces set to be created at Waterlooville school

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Plans have been unveiled to create 12 additional special education needs spaces at a primary school in Waterlooville.

Hampshire County Council is set to embark on a consultation to establish an additional twelve SEN “satellite” spaces at Mill Hill Primary School in Mill Road from January 2024. The places, would would be run by staff at the nearby Riverside Community Special School in Scratchface Lane, would be created following a £350k refurbishment.

At the moment, Riverside Community Special School provides specialist support for 137 pupils with moderate learning difficulties (MLD), severe learning disability (SLD) and autism spectrum conditions (ASC), although the “Agreed Pupil Numbers” (APN) indicated that the accommodation is suitable for 121 pupils.

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However, despite being expanded in size and increasing its APN each year, “further short-term sustainable development on the site is not possible”, the report indicated. If approved after the consultation, Mill Hill Primary School will offer twelve spaces for children with severe learning difficulties (SLD).

Mill Hill Primary School. Google MapsMill Hill Primary School. Google Maps
Mill Hill Primary School. Google Maps

This new provision would be accommodated on an adjoining building, which is not utilised by the school and is currently rented to Growing Places Ltd, a third party that uses part of it for after-school and holiday provision with a Community Pantry.

HCC’s papers indicated that the actual building is of a size that enables Growing Places to retain the Community Pantry and a room for the after-school club with their access. The spaces available at Mill Hill Primary School require some minor work to make them appropriate for pupils with severe learning disabilities. Refurbishment works, an upgraded toilet area, a sensory room, safeguarding measures, and a new segregated play space area are required. As a result, two classrooms and other ancillary facilities, including an external play space, will then be segregated for use by Riverside School.

HCC estimates that the cost for these works in the region will total £350,000 and be fully funded by the Children’s Service Capital Programme. The proposal is a response to the increased pressure on SEN provision in the region and parental demand for proper education for their children.

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Additionally, the Council aims to reduce its dependence on independent and non-maintained special school places (INMSS), which cost £61,200 per place annually, compared to Community Special School and Resourced Provision (RP) fees, which have a cost of £18,079 and £17,636 respectively. The annual cost of these new twelve places will be £215,000 per annum to the County Council.

Riverside Community Special School has been expanded three times in recent years. The HCC report indicated that the school “continues to be subject to increasing numbers of Tribunals where it has been directed” and added, “There are more Tribunals expected in the coming weeks with appeals expected if placements cannot be agreed.”

As of August 2023, the number of maintained EHCPs (Education, Health and Care Plan) in the Hampshire local authority was 15,753. By 2030/31, Hampshire County Council expects the number to increase to 28,000 pupils.

A four-week statutory consultation will be undertaken in October and November 2023 if the proposal to consult is agreed by the Executive Member for Education, Councillor Steve Forster, on Thursday (October 19).