More than £1m to be spent on refurbishing a former Portsmouth school for 14 students
MORE than £1m is set to be spent on renovating a former school to cater for 14 students.
The ground floor of the former Harbour School in Fratton has been earmarked as a new educational site for children with 'significant physical or mental disabilities' to meet growing demand - and is due to open this September.
If approved, the school, which will be renamed The Lantern, will act as a temporary site for the special educational needs and disability (Send) students for three years until a more 'long-term' solution is found.
Portsmouth council's education boss Councillor Suzy Horton said: 'These children are known as complex plus students and live with significant physical or mental disabilities. And quite often they're not ambulant.
'So these are students that aren't able to learn in mainstream schools and it's also not as simple as just adding them to classes at our other SEND schools.
'If we weren't able to provide a learning environment for these students they would have to go outside of Portsmouth, and that's difficult for the children and their families.'
The refurbishment is estimated to cost £1,020,000. More than half of this - £537,600 - would come from a government grant, and the rest from Portsmouth City Council capital reserves.
Other options were considered including placing the pupils in independent settings, however, this was estimated to cost £1.5m for eight pupils over three years.
Sarah White, head of policy at national disability charity Sense, added: 'The number of disabled children in the UK has risen by 33 per cent in the last 10 years and the funding gap for special educational needs is currently £536m, expected to rise to £1.6bn by 2021,' she said.
'As a result, many areas are struggling to cope with the demand for specialist education.
'Specialist support needs to be available to all children and young people with complex disabilities, as they have the right to education and the right to the best start in life.'
It is predicted that by 2023 Portsmouth would have a shortage of at least 100 Send places.
The Lantern will operate under the same trust as the Mary Rose Academy in Milton.