School plans set for summer start

A major scheme of improvements for Gosberton House Academy has been approved by the county council and work could start next month.

A meeting of the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee last Friday saw discussion about the £6.8m project.
The move will see the school become specialist in provision of education for children with autism. It will also cater for children with a range of SEND needs.
A new four classroom block will be built and two of those will be used for children with ‘profound and multiple’ learning difficulties, while the other two will be used for general SEND needs.
A report from the county council says the new classrooms and therapy spaces will enable pupils to have their health and therapeutic needs met primarily in the school setting.
The new block will also include facilities such as a sensory room and soft-play space.
The original budget of £4.72m has increased because of site constraints, including being in a flood zone.
“It is unfortunate that the site we are dealing with here is very, very complex,” said Dave Pennington, head of property development at the county council.
The site is also located in a conservation area, which houses dozens of trees with preservation orders and solar panels are not viable.
This means the plan involves upgrading a substation on its site as the current capacity is insufficient.
Mr Pennington also stressed that the move was a positive development as the council had been ‘prudent’ and had the funding to cover the gap.
Coun Phil Dilks asked if the council had looked at any alternative sites which could have offered better value.
Programme manager Eileen McMorrow said the project involved expanding an existing school and that building a new school in the area would likely have been even more costly for he council.
She also praised the school and said it was ‘excellent.’
Final approval of the project will be subject to leader Martin Hill, with work due to start on site next month once the approval is given.
The news comes as demand for places in special needs schools in Lincolnshire has dramatically risen in recent years, increasingly outpacing the number of available places, according to a report from Lincolnshire County Council.
Across the county, there are 108,725 children and young people in the school population, of which 18,549 have been identified as having a special educational need.
Of these, 15,427 (82 per cent) were recorded as receiving Special Education Needs & Disabilities (SEND) support.
On a national scale, the Department for Education reported in January 2023 that nearly 1.6 million children in England are recorded as having special educational needs (SEN), with more than 500,000 of these children and young people also having an Educational Health & Care Plan (EHCP).
During a Lincolnshire Schools’ Forum on Thursday, Martin Smith, the assistant director of children’s education at Lincolnshire County Council, noted that demand for EHCPs had risen by 36.6 per cent year-on-year to 6,958 in 2023 and that levels have continued to soar, reaching 7,899 by May this year.
When carrying out an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment, local authorities are required to issue a final plan within 20 weeks of the initial request.
According to the report, Lincolnshire County Council has managed to meet this requirement for 78.2 per cent of requests, which is higher than the national average of 49.2 per cent, but represents a slight decline from last year’s performance.
Mr Smith put the decrease down to ‘volume’.
While phase one of its Building Communities Capital program is now nearing completion, delivering 425 new special school places by September 2024, demand increases rapidly.
The report states: “Despite this significant capital investment, demand is meaning that placements are not always secured as quickly as we would wish.”

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