Plan for new autism school is welcomed

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PARENTS have welcomed plans to open a new special school in Portsmouth, saying the announcement has been ‘long overdue’.

Portsmouth City Council has revealed it will be opening the new facility in 2020, with building work set to begin as early as 2018.

It comes after the authority, in conjunction with Hampshire County Council, made a bid to the government to fund the special school academy.

The institution will be co-located with Redwood Park academy on its school site in Wembley Grove, Cosham.

It will offer 40 places – eight for junior school-aged pupils, 24 secondary school spots and eight place for post-16 pupils – and will specifically cater for children with autism and social communication issues.

The news has been praised by Kirstine Impey, whose young 11-year-old son Andrew has autism.

Kirstine, of Fairfield Square, Wymering, said: ‘This is long overdue. Children with autism can get left behind by the education system.

‘We have been lucky, because I have been able to stay and home-school Andrew.

‘But there are parents who I have come across who are single parents with three or four children with special needs who can’t do this.

‘So a school like this will really help them. It’s fantastic news.’

The city council is taking applications to sponsor the school.

Work on plans for the new building has started and construction is due to begin in 2018. When it opens two years later, the council said it will be staffed by ‘highly-skilled professionals’ with resources catered to help the school’s future pupils.

Councillor Hannah Hockaday, cabinet member for education at the city council, said: ‘This is good news for the city. It will have a positive impact on the availability and choice of school places for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

‘This new free school academy will support young people throughout their education including post-16 and help give them the best possible start as young adults.’

The new school is one of 19 across England that have been approved by the government.

More than 1,600 new special free school places have been created.