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New special education needs school to open in Stafford

A Google Images view of the site in Stafford set be transformed into a school for children with special education needs

Plans to convert a former care home in Stafford to a school for children with special education needs have been approved.

Kidsgrove-based SEN 1 Ltd, which already runs special schools in Kidsgrove and Cheddleton, was given the green light to convert the former New Burton House care home in Burton Bank Lane by Stafford Borough Council’s Planning Committee.

The proposed Heather Field School is expected to provide around 37 jobs and places for up to 64 pupils by 2024.

Dr Amy Hopkin, from SEN1 Ltd, told Wednesday’s committee meeting: “We have a great track record of setting up fabulous special schools in North Staffordshire. We are aware that many children attend schools outside Stafford for education to meet their needs.

“We hope to engage with the local community. We put on an information session which was attended by people who were initially concerned about what we were proposing, but when we explained it to them they really wanted to support the school in some way.”

SEN1’s Bluebell School in Kidsgrove and Hopedale School in Cheddleton are currently both rated Outstanding by Ofsted.

The plans for the Stafford day school were recommended for approval by council officers.

But ward councillor Angela Loughran called the application in for consideration by the planning committee because of concerns about vehicles using Chestnut Drive to access the school and on-site parking provision.

Committee member Councillor Jonathan Price said: “As a father of an autistic child I’m extremely pleased to see this application.

“Within my ward I have got two special needs schools. One has problems with children being taken to school by minibus – it is a real concern of mine that they all turn up at roughly the same time so you end up with a huge of vehicles. That’s something that does worry me.

“I feel the car park at full capacity is not large enough, once you take into account teachers, TAs (teaching assistants) and people coming in from other organisations. I don’t feel there is enough parking on site.”

The meeting was told however that access via Chestnut Drive would be restricted to taxis and minibuses transporting pupils to the school and the site’s parking provision met the council’s requirements.

Committee member Carolyn Trowbridge said: “I was very happy to see this application. The area really needs a special day school. When I saw they had Outstanding in their Ofsted (reports) I was very pleased.”

Fellow committee member Councillor Geoff Rowlands said: “In a past life I was head of special needs at a school and I taught children with autism. More and more children are being diagnosed.”

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