One hundred new school places to be created in Southport

Primary school pupils during a lesson.
-Credit: (Image: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire)


One hundred new school places have been created in Southport for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and will be available for the new school year.

Sefton Council's Cabinet met this morning Thursday May 23 to approve plans to establish a new SEN unit at Marshside Primary School. Furthermore, the local authority will now start work with eight schools across the borough to ensure an additional 100 SEN places are available from September 2024.

The new SEN unit at Marshside will offer pupils the opportunity of attending a mainstream school, whilst also receiving specialist input relevant to the child’s special educational needs and disabilities. For pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), the unit will also include additional support which many mainstream are unable to provide.

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In their last Ofsted inspection report in September 2023, Marshside Primary School received a 'Good' rating. Staff were praised for the importance they place on specially resourced provision for pupils with SEND and creating an environment where they can succeed.

The council report the number of children and young people with an EHCP in Sefton has increased significantly over the last few years. The most common category of need within this group of pupils are those with social communication and interaction difficulties including Autism as well as emotional and mental health issues.

The proposed SEN Unit will not replace existing provision but will supplement and improve it across the borough. Similarly, the addition of the SEN unit to the school will not have a direct impact on admissions or
provision at other schools within the area.

Sefton Council believe they can get long-term value for money by pupils having their needs met within appropriate mainstream provision with specialist support rather than in a separate, independent special school. Additional places will be across both primary and secondary school settings and the local authority hopes this approach will free up local special school places for pupils with the highest level of needs - rather than transporting pupils out of borough which can be more costly.

A recent report showed England's council spending on school transport for children with SEND has almost doubled in the last five years and is set to hit £1.4bn across local authorities in 2023-24 - a 95% rise from £728m in 2018-19. Sefton Council expect the creation of more local provision will save money and also provide more convenience and accessibility for families.

The initial construction work will focus on renovating existing buildings and classrooms to make them suitable for children with additional needs It is estimated that savings here could total up to £6.5million that can be spent on further expanding SEN provision and services in Sefton.

Cllr Diane Roscoe, Sefton Council Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Schools said: “Being able to provide suitable school places for our children to thrive is a real priority for us. We know there is a growing need in our community for SEN places and are pursuing every avenue available to us to grow the SEN provision in Sefton to meet that need.

“The creation of these new places will not only save a significant amount of money versus out of borough or independent provision but we know that parents and families want their child to be supported and given the tools to thrive in a local setting that’s right for them.”

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