A consultation on expanding the number of residential places in North Yorkshire for children and young people with complex needs related to autism is to go ahead.
Currently, many of these children and young people attend independent, residential special schools out of the county, in order to meet their needs. But they are often long distances away from their families and communities.
In a bid to keep families closer together as well as curtailing the expense of out-of-county placements, We are planning to expand and change the nature of residential provision at Welburn Hall School, in Kirkbymoorside, Ryedale.
Welburn Hall is a maintained special school for pupils aged between eight and 19, providing for a range of learning and communication based needs including Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC), speech, language and communication needs, moderate and severe learning difficulties.
This month, the County Council’s Children and Young People’s Service Executive gave the go-ahead to a proposal which will see up to 12 boarding places being created for up to seven nights a week during term-time to cater for children and young people aged 8 to19 with ASC and related difficulties. As a result, more young people with these needs can be educated in their local area and form connections with their local community.
This supports North Yorkshire’s ambition for children and young people with special educational needs to have access to high quality learning closer to home and to their communities.
At present, residential provision at Welburn Hall School is limited to young people post-16 for up to four nights a week during term-time to help them transition to more independent living and prepare for adulthood. However, the demand for these places has been falling over time. There are no new starters from this September, which has placed a financial strain on the school.
We will now consult on this expansion and change of provision, which should result in social and financial benefits in keeping children within the county and closer to family and friends. The number of children with complex needs relating to Autism Spectrum Disorder is expected to continue to grow over the coming years.
Any young people in the future who would previously have been able to access residential schooling at Welburn Hall after 16, but who do not match the profile for the proposed new provision, will be supported effectively to continue their day placements at the school.
Jane le Sage, North Yorkshire’s assistant director for inclusion said: “We believe expanding provision in this way will enable children to have their needs met in North Yorkshire which will also be reassuring to families, allowing greater contact with their children.
“As well as allowing children and young people to remain in their local area - by being educated nearer home - the proposal will also reduce the demand for places at alternative independent or out-of-authority schools, many of which are of considerable distance from North Yorkshire.
“Welburn Hall School have a proven track record of working closely with us and health to develop bespoke care and education packages to ensure the highest quality provision for their young people and have demonstrated a drive to meet these complex needs. The school leadership and governors will continue to develop staff training in this field.”