Spalding head backs countywide reforms for special schools

ALL NEEDS SCHOOLS: Daran Bland (left), executive head teacher of Garth and Priory Schools, Spalding, and Dr Richard Gamman, head of the The John Fielding Special School, Boston.''Photo by Tim Wilson. SG121115-248TW.
  • SEND reforms could save county council up to £3million

The head of two special schools in Spalding has backed plans to reform the way children with learning needs and disabilities are educated in Lincolnshire.

Daran Bland, executive head teacher of the Garth and Priory Schools, described the new SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) vision for the county as “an exciting and ambitious opportunity for significant improvement in the sector”.

Under the plans unveiled by Lincolnshire County Council last month, Garth and Priory would be merged into one school, but still based at two sites in Pinchbeck Road and Neville Avenue respectively.

Currently, Priory caters for about 130 children aged between 11 and 16 who are classified as having moderate to severe learning difficulties.

In contrast, Garth has 55 places in the 2017-18 academic year for children aged from two to 19 with severe to profound and multiple learning difficulties.

As well as merging, Garth and Priory (which together form the Spalding Special Schools Federation) would also become part of a “specialist education community” in south-west Lincolnshire along with Gosberton House Academy and The John Fielding Special School in Boston.

The proposed reforms for special needs provision across Lincolnshire are an exciting and ambitious opportunity for significant improvement in the sector

Daran Bland, executive head teacher of the Garth and Priory Schools, Spalding

Mr Bland, also executive head at John Fielding, said: “The proposed reforms for special needs provision across Lincolnshire are an exciting and ambitious opportunity for significant improvement in the sector.

“Many of the special schools in Lincolnshire are completely full, resulting in children not being able to access the specialist provision they need or having to travel long distances to get to a school.

“Lincolnshire’s special school head teachers have been working with the county council for around two years to devise the strategy now under consultation.

“The Garth and Priory Schools have provided excellent provision for children with very wide-ranging needs for many years and the proposals would see the two schools amalgamating into one ‘all needs’ school for children aged 2 to 19, whilst still using both of our current sites.

“Both schools have worked as a federation for over ten years and, in partnership with each other, have been successfully meeting ‘all needs’, including autism, throughout that time.

“Under the reforms, there would be major capital investment program across both sites to modernise and expand the buildings we currently have.

“I am also executive head teacher of the John Fielding Special School in Boston and the proposal there is to build a brand new larger school which too is a hugely exciting opportunity.

“Plans elsewhere in the county include the expansion and improvement of the vast majority Lincolnshire’s other special schools, as well as innovative pilot schemes to develop greater collaboration between special and mainstream schools.

“We have held five consultation events with parents across the three schools that I lead and the overwhelming response to the proposals has been a positive one as they will only serve to improve on what we already do and further improve outcomes for children with special educational needs.”

Changes to special needs education in Lincolnshire have been promoted as a way to “bring accessible, inclusive education in all communities”.

Parents across South Holland likely to be affected by the plans learned more at two meetings in Spalding on Friday.

Put simply, the county council wants to cut the length of school journeys for special needs children, increase the range of disabilities that special schools cater for and build stronger ties between specialist and mainstream schools.

A county council report about the plans estimated that 70 per cent of children would be able to go to a school nearer their home, saving between £2-£3million in transport costs.

Coun Patricia Bradwell, the county council’s executive member for children’s services, said: “We want all children to be able to access high-quality education and achieve their potential, as near to their family as possible.

“These proposals will address many of the challenges pupils with special educational needs and disabilities and their families face when trying to find the right education, in the right place.”

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