'Unprecedented' demand for special needs placements

Witchford Village College singled out for special mention in county council report

Witchford Village College singled out for special mention in county council report in its work to help pupils with autism - Credit: Archant

Covid-19 has seen an “unprecedented increase” in the number of children with special educational needs (SEND) all requiring a placement.  

Charlotte Black, the county council executive director, people and communities, says that as of February 8, there were 211 children in Cambridgeshire identified as needing specialist provision.  

This could be in a specialist school or in provision attached to a mainstream school. 

This includes pupils who have moved into the county.  

She said: “These pupils are either currently on roll in a mainstream school or receiving tuition packages of alternative provision.” 

Ms Black’s report to the children and young people’s committee says the council will increase the number of places offering special education provision.  

These will be for children and young people with Education Health Care Plans (ECHPs) who are currently awaiting placement.  

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Total number awaiting placement in each area are: 

Cambridge City 39 

East Cambridgeshire 33 

Fenland 77 

Huntingdonshire 28 

South Cambridgeshire 34 

She says the council has worked out the actions being taken, or which are proposed, to commission new and additional places to meet this need. 

The council proposes to expand existing area special schools. 

They will also provide additional permanent accommodation, enabling those schools to increase the number of children able to be educated on their sites. 

The council also plans to use “satellite, off-site classes can be managed and overseen by existing special schools”. 

Ms Black says creating dedicated provision attached to mainstream schools will create further opportunities for inclusions. 

“Examples of these exist at Comberton Village College and Witchford Village College with a focus on supporting pupils with autism,” she says. 

Other measures are being considered to meet the council’s statutory duties.  

“There is a clear need for increased availability of area special school places in Fenland,” she says. 

Officers are negotiating with Affinity Multi-Academy Trust to create 60 additional places at Meadowgate Special Academy in Wisbech.  

And Wisbech will be helped by a new school which should open in September 2023. 

Projects are also underway at Samuel Pepys Special School in St Neots, Granta Special School at Linton and Spring Common Special School in Huntingdon.  

All area special schools will be asked to admit up to 10 per cent over their published admission number. 

Allocating satellite classrooms to support this would provide accommodation for a total of 120 additional places. 

"The initial priority is to identify/ create provision for those on the awaiting placement list with an accompanying funding model,” says Ms Black.