Major investment for new satellite special school

This story was published 24 May 2021

A new satellite special school has welcomed in more than 40 new pupils, following a major investment which has seen a site in North Yorkshire redeveloped for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

Child in tunnel

Mowbray School, Ripon, has been created from the site of the city’s former Moorside Infant School and caters for primary-aged children in the local area.

Following a £723,000 investment from the County Council, it has been fitted with specialist facilities, including five newly equipped and fully refurbished classrooms, indoor and outdoor play and sensory equipment, calm rooms and a forest school set among trees within the grounds.

The new satellite special school – part of Mowbray School in Bedale - is part of the County Council’s current strategic plan for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in North Yorkshire, which involves developing more local provision for children and young people with SEND. This enables them to remain in their own communities and families do not have to travel out of the county to get the specialist education they need.

The school, which opened two classrooms to 12 pupils last year, serves the Ripon, Harrogate, Boroughbridge and Knaresborough area and is a satellite of Mowbray School in Bedale. There are now 42 pupils enrolled, which is set to increase in September when a sixth class opens.

Mowbray School Executive Headteacher, Jonathan Tearle said; “This has been a project four years in the making.

“We’re very fortunate we have a good, central location for the new site and it is set in lovely grounds.

“We added play equipment into the grounds, developed a forest school and will be creating a bike track in summer. It’s a fabulous facility and one which we are very proud of – it’s such a credit to the dedication and work of our staff. It’s been nice seeing the school grow from 12 to 42 pupils over the last few months.

“Now we have five classrooms, rather than two, we can place children into more appropriate groups and with similar peers. Seeing how the children have benefited is fantastic. It’s been uplifting to see them exploring the playground and playing and developing friendships.

“It’s also had a positive impact locally. We have created significant additional jobs in Ripon. We employ about 30 staff here and when we open up the kitchens in September we will be employing kitchen staff. To be contributing to the local economy as well is fantastic.”

Development work on the site is set to continue; Mowbray School recently put in an application to build a Rebound Therapy Centre at the site, where children can take part in sequenced actions on trampolines with staff members to improve their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Over summer a cycle track will be installed where children can ride their adapted bikes and trikes.

Jonathan Tearle said they were looking forward to showing parents, carers and families around the new facilities when lockdown restrictions were eased further.

“Parents have believed in us as we progressed with this project,” he said.

“They had a tour of the building before it was renovated, but then lockdown happened and meetings with parents and the look around had to be moved online. It will be wonderful for them to see their children in their school and the fantastic facilities we have here.”

The increase in the number of children with social emotional and mental health needs and those with communication and interaction needs is part of a national trend.

Cllr Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education and Skills, said: “Our aspirations remain high for children and young people with SEND in North Yorkshire and, despite the significant funding challenges, we are continuing to develop the range of provision needed now and in the future, to ensure children can be educated within their own communities.”

Another specialist school for pupils with SEND is being developed in Selby, following a successful bid to the Government by the County Council to develop a new special free school. The Department for Education has announced Wellspring Multi Academy Trust as the sponsor to take on the school.

The proposed school will cater for up to 100 pupils aged three to 19 North Yorkshire County Council, the Department for Education and Wellspring are continuing to work towards delivery of the new school, subject to planning approval.

Further funding is also being invested in creating specialist SEND provision in mainstream schools across North Yorkshire. These specialist bases, called Targeted Mainstream Provisions, are providing more local places for children with Education, Health and Care plans who need additional support to access mainstream school successfully.  Children attending benefit from specialist teaching, therapeutic support and dedicated space within school to be educated in smaller groups where necessary. 

There are almost 163,000 children and young people aged 0-25 in North Yorkshire and there are more than 3,450 children and young people with Education and Health Care Plans.  The biggest areas of growing need are those children being identified with communication and interaction needs and social, emotional and mental health needs. The County Council expects that these number will continue to rise.