The development of a special free school for the Selby area has taken a major step forward with the naming of an academy sponsor for the project.
The Department for Education has chosen the Wellspring Academy Trust as the sponsor to take on the school, which will meet a long-standing need of families in the area with children with special educational needs and disabilities.
The opening of a special school has been widely supported locally and is an important part of the strategic plan for SEND provision of North Yorkshire County Council which made the successful bid for a free school to Government.
At present, there is no special school in Selby, which means children and young people from the area who need special education have to travel to another part of North Yorkshire or out of the county.
Wellspring Academy Trust already has a presence in North Yorkshire as it runs the Grove pupil referral unit in Harrogate and The Forest School, a special school in Knaresborough.
County Councillor Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education and Skills, said: “Supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities is among the most important jobs we do and we are ambitious to continue to develop high quality and local SEND provision. We are very pleased that our bid for Selby was approved by the Government and that we now have a chosen sponsor.
“Having a special school in the Selby area will bring benefits for children and young people across education, health and care and we are very pleased that Wellspring has been successful. We already work closely with the Trust on special education provision in the Harrogate area and we look forward to developing a positive partnership in Selby.
“At present, some children and young people from the Selby area have to travel significant distances to their special schools. A new special school will enable them to go to school in their community and with their friends, which will support their social and emotional wellbeing.
“It will reduce travelling time and, therefore, the time children spend away from their home and community. There will also be greater opportunity to have health needs met locally, to be part of community events and developments and to prepare for adulthood in their own area.
“For parents and carers, there will be more opportunity to develop relationships with the school and improved choice in provision for young people with education, health and care plans.”
The proposed school will cater for up to 100 pupils aged three to 19 and the Government expects that the school, which is one of 35 announced for England, will open after September 2022.
Mark Wilson, CEO of Wellspring Academy Trust, said: “The fact that the Department for Education has granted Wellspring approval to deliver this new schools is testament to the trust’s extensive experience and proven ability in creating positive, nurturing and effective learning environments in this sector.
“Special needs school places are in increasing demand and we are proud to be able to play our part – alongside county council partners - in meeting some of that growing need. This school will ensure that more children can access the high-quality specialist education they need to thrive and will improve the long-term life chances of some of our most vulnerable young people.
“Creating new schools from scratch is no small task but the team at Wellspring has an excellent track record, with eight successful new school builds, including five Free Schools, completed to date. Having the opportunity to develop a purpose-built school specifically designed to support the particular needs of the pupils is great for Wellspring and will be fantastic for the children who will be able to attend and their families.”
Work with the DfE in respect of the site and the building is developing but is in the early stages. The planning authority for the school will be Selby District Council. A planning application for the school will be submitted by the DfE’s consultant and the date for this has yet to be determined.