Currently we do not have enough specialist education places in Suffolk to meet the needs of all the children who need them. This means that some children have to wait a long time to secure a specialist placement and others have to travel a long way from their home community. We know that it is better for children to be able to learn closer to home and we want to reduce the times that children have to wait for a specialist placement once it has been decided this is the best option for them, so we are developing plans to increase the number of places locally.
Suffolk Sufficiency Plan
To make sure we develop the right kind of specialist education places in the right parts of Suffolk we are developing a Sufficiency Plan working in partnership with health and care partners, education providers and the Suffolk Parent Carer Network. The first stage of this is to gather together as much information as possible about the future likely demand for places. We have used our own data combined with health data and information about plans for new housing. This tells us information about future needs. We have also assessed how many places we can provide in our current special schools. We are now at the stage where we can put this information together to work out what new places we need and where. We expect to consult on the outline plans early in the late spring.
Short Term Developments
In the meantime, there are some new placements we know that we need for September 2018. We have published this information and invited all the existing education providers in Suffolk to consider whether they would like to put forward a proposal to offer some of these places. This competition to meet the immediate needs will close at the end of March. A list of the types of places we are developing through this competition is included in the Special Provision Plan that we have started to develop. You can find a link to this plan at the bottom of this page.
New Specialist Schools
The Everett Academy: In September 2017 we opened a new special school in Lowestoft for children aged 9 to 16 years who have social emotional and mental health and behaviour support needs. This has created 50 new specialist places.
New Specialist Free School in Ipswich: The Local Authority and the Department for Education have recently run a competition for a new free school in Ipswich catering for pupils with very complex needs in terms of social, emotional and mental health and a highly therapeutic offer. This will be a new school built in Lindbergh Road, Ipswich, information is available on the DfE website.
As we develop the Sufficiency Plan this may well identify additional plans for new special schools.
How we will find the capital funds to develop new places
If we need to build a new school this costs several millions of pounds and the most likely way we can fund this is by gaining agreement from the Department for Education (DfE) to fund a new free school. This is the way the new specialist free school in Ipswich mentioned above will be funded. However, if we create smaller specialist units linked to existing education providers this often only requires small amounts of capital funds. The DfE has given us £1.3 million to help with this. They have asked us to complete a planning spreadsheet called a Special Provision Plan Template in order to release this funding.