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Plans submitted for new children's special education school in Stafford

Saturday, January 5th, 2019 8:00am

By Kerry Ashdown & Richard Hilton

Photo courtesy of Google Street View

A former Stafford care home could be transformed into a school for children with special educational needs if plans are approved.

Kidsgrove-based SEN 1 Ltd, which already runs special schools in Kidsgrove and Cheddleton, has applied to Stafford Borough Council for permission to change the use of New Burton House in Burton Bank Lane.

If the plans are approved the proposed Heather Field School would provide around 37 jobs and places for up to 64 pupils by 2024.

A planning statement submitted to the council as part of the application said: “The application is being submitted on behalf of Dr Amy Hopkin and Sarah Deaville of SEN 1 Ltd who are highly experienced, talented and passionate educationalists.

"They have transformed the lives of over 100 children in North Staffordshire with special educational needs by providing therapeutic learning environments in their two existing special schools, which have been rated outstanding in their most recent Ofsted inspections.

“The schools specifically provide education to children with autistic spectrum condition, speech, language and communication difficulties, and learning difficulties with associated challenging behaviour.

“The intention is to open Heather Field School at New Burton House as a similar special school, offering quality education to children in Stafford and the surrounding areas.

"The applicants have a strong relationship with the Staffordshire Education Commissioning Team who are supportive of this proposal and have confirmed that a school of the type proposed would be warmly welcomed as many children travel outside Stafford (some travelling considerable distances) to access suitable education.

“The provision of this school would have a significant beneficial impact on the quality of life of children based in and around Stafford, but it would also reduce transport costs to the local authority.”

The existing buildings at the former NHS trust-run care home have been deemed suitable for conversion, the statement added.

It said: “The four buildings on site provide a perfect layout for a special school, creating an inclusive, therapeutic, village-style environment.”

A resident of nearby Chestnut Drive said their initial concerns about vehicle access had been addressed.

They said: “The entrance, onto Chestnut Drive, is on a blind bend. There were concerns that vehicles leaving the New Burton House site would do so at significant risk.

"However, this seems to have been addressed by the proposal to only use this entrance as a way into the site and not a way out.

"Other than that, I was happy with the proposal and appreciated the details given, by the proposees, at a recent consultation evening.

“I am also happy that the site will be occupied again. Whilst empty it has been a haven of anti-social behaviour and something of an unkempt eyesore.”

Last month a Staffordshire County Council committee was told that the number of children and young people classed as having special educational needs and disability (SEND) in Staffordshire has risen by a third in the past five years.

The number of pupils with Education, Health and Care plans (EHCPs) has also risen year on year. An EHCP is a legal document detailing a young person’s educational, health and social needs, as well as the additional support they require.

A Staffordshire SEND strategy has been produced to improve support and prospects for children and young people in the county.

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