Two New Schools For Children With Special Educational Needs (SEND) And Disabilities Coming To Wokingham Borough

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Two new schools for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are set to be built in Wokingham Borough following a successful funding bid by the council.

The Department for Education (DfE) approved the council’s application for both schools yesterday (1 March), which will help it to meet the challenges of rapidly increasing demand that many other authorities around the country are also facing.

The council hopes the schools, which would each have about 100 places and be based at Rooks’ Nest Farm in Finchampstead and Gray’s Farm in Wokingham Without parish, could open in September 2026 and will soon be advertising for trusts to apply to establish them.

Once up and running, they will join Addington School in Woodley and Chiltern Way Academy in Wokingham town, as well as Oak Tree School in Winnersh which is due to open in September 2023, in offering tailored and specialist education and support to children with SEND.

A quality education closer to home

The council believes it is vital that children and young people with SEND get the high-quality specialist education, health and care they need close to where they live. These new schools will mean more of these services can be offered to children living in the borough within their own community.

At the moment, most children’s SEND needs within the borough are met in mainstream schools where appropriate. However, an increasing number of children with SEND are needing special schools, with many having to travel further afield for an education that meets their needs.

In some cases, they must be placed in out-of-borough independent specialist schools, costing up to three times as much as providing the same standard of education within the borough and causing an increase in travel times. The only barrier to this is a shortage of places, so the two new schools will offer far better value for public money in the long term.

The benefits of local specialist schools also include allowing pupils to take part in extracurricular activities and making friends who live nearby.

Specialist schools offer a tailored learning experience and environment to children, often specialising in meeting a particular need. They may have smaller class sizes or offer support from therapist services with accessible and adaptable spaces.

A better service at better value

“I’m absolutely delighted that the Department for Education has awarded us this funding. This is excellent news for residents of the borough, particularly those children with SEND and their families,” said Cllr Clive Jones, leader of the council.  

“The wellbeing and future of our children is a key priority, and these new schools will help us to offer them high-quality services closer to home. They will also help us balance our books and allocate resources in a more meaningful way so that we can do more for children locally.

“We look forward to continuing our work with partners and families to help us ensure that children and young people with SEND receive the right services, at the right time, and in the right place.”