TWO special schools in Leicester are set to expand.
Ellesmere College and Nether Hall Special School, which cater for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), will both increase the number of students they are able to take from the new academic year this September.
Both schools will offer post-16 education for their students at two new satellite sites. This will free up additional capacity at their main sites.
Ellesmere College will open a post-16 base at The Rowans, in Highfields, while Nether Hall School will expand into The Armadale Centre, a former youth centre in Netherhall.
The expansions will mean Nether Hall Special School will increase its capacity from 110 students to up to 140, while Ellesmere College will be able to offer up to 80 more places, increasing from 286 to 366.
A second satellite site for Ellesmere, at the Knighton Fields Centre, was also agreed last month. It will provide space for up to a further 60 students with complex communication and interaction needs, such as autism. This means the capacity at Ellesmere will eventually rise to up to 426.
The expansion projects are part of an overall £6.9m plan to increase special school places in the city, with money coming from the council’s capital programme to provide new school places.
Assistant city mayor for education Cllr Elly Cutkelvin said: “Following detailed analysis of need in the city, it was decided that these two schools were best placed to provide additional special school capacity to meet some of the unmet need for children in the city.
“These expansions are great news for SEND provision in Leicester and will enable many more children to access specialist education and the support needed to go on to live a full and accomplished adult life.
“It makes sense to offer post-16 SEND education from satellite sites which will allow the schools to expand while offering older children their own dedicated learning environment. It will mean that the schools will have the additional accommodation needed for the increase in pupil places.
“This also demonstrates our commitment to strengthening the post-16 offer for SEND in the city by ensuring provision is both varied and bespoke to need.”
Figures for Leicester show that the number of pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan – a tailored educational plan for children with special educational needs and disabilities – was recorded at 2,990 in January 2021. Many of these children will benefit from extra help while they attend a mainstream school, but some need specialist educational provision.
Demand for special school places has increased every year for the last six years, and is forecast to continue to grow.
Steph Beale, principal of Ellesmere, said: “The expansion is great news for Ellesmere College. We currently cater for students with a range of needs within our existing building in Braunstone. The expansions mean that we are able to deliver a bespoke curriculum for our post-16 students, centred around employability and independence.
“A base closer to the city centre will increase students’ independence and access to work placements. The Knighton Fields site will allow us to better cater for our most complex young people in a low stimulus environment with access to bespoke sensory experiences. We’re very much looking forward to opening the Knighton Fields site in September.”
Families associated with both schools, along with organisations and the public, were invited to make representations on the expansion proposals earlier this year. No negative representations were received.
The city council will now take a decision to proceed with the expansion plans. The full decision can be seen at http://www.cabinet.leicester.gov.uk:8071/ieDecisionDetails.aspx?id=1200&LLL=0.
This means both schools will soon be able to begin their admissions process for the new academic year, offering an increased number of places.
Picture shows the Rowans building in Highfields