DORSET Council has revealed how it is spending £37.5m of funding earmarked to improve the lives of children with additional needs - including the creation of new schools.

The funding was secured to help deliver the council’s aim, set out in its Children’s Plan, of providing the best education for Dorset children and young people with special educational needs and or abilities (SEND) for the next five years.

The council developed the plans in response to the growing need for more special educational provision - with young people with Education, Health and Care Plans in Dorset nearly doubling between 2015 and 2020. Currently some children and young people with SEND must travel a great distance for educational provision, sometimes outside of the county, because there's not enough specialist provision available in Dorset.

The council's roadmap to deliver the programme includes a scheme to open the Dorset Centre of Excellence – a new school in Shaftesbury based on the former St Mary's site to open with an initial 60 additional places in the 2021/22 academic year, with further phasing as it seeks to achieve 280 places in total over the subsequent years.

The council is also working towards opening an additional site for Wimborne's Beaucroft Special School – which will bring approximately 75 additional places in 2022/23.

The investment is also set to go towards the expansion of Inclusion Hubs across Dorset which will provide provision attached to mainstream schools. It is hoped that Inclusion Hubs will support children with SEND so that they can access the mainstream classroom, but also allow space to support children when they need more specialist support. The move expects to achieve an expansion of over 100 places over the next 5 years.

Independent provision costs around £60,000 a year per child, whereas high quality provision at one of Dorset's own special schools costs around £22,000 a year per child. The SEND Capital Strategy aims to increase local provision and reduce some of these costs in the longer term.

Cllr Andrew Parry, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Early Help, said; “Dorset Council is making a big investment in education and support for children with SEND and it’s of huge importance to us. We've developed these ambitious plans because the need for more SEND provision is growing fast and we want all our children and young people to have the best possible outcomes – to thrive.

“This bold and ambitious strategy will focus on achieving the best education for all Dorset’s children and young people with SEND, while avoiding the need for a child to travel away from their family and friend networks to receive their education or support.”


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