A special free school is to be built in Selby following a successful bid to the Department for Education.
At present, there is no special school in the Selby area, which means children and young people from Selby who need a special school have to travel to another part of North Yorkshire or out of the county.
The successful bid, announced by the Government last week, was a key part of the North Yorkshire County Council’s Strategic Plan for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Education provision. The proposal to submit a bid was strongly supported during formal consultation on the plan, when 94 per cent of people who responded to a council survey agreed with the proposal.
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. We are very pleased that our bid was approved by the Government. Having a special school in the Selby area will bring benefits for children and young people across education, health and care.
“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.
North Yorkshire’s chief executive, Richard Flinton, who opened a North of England Inclusion Conference hosted by the County Council last week, welcomed the go-ahead for the free school to help meet local need but said a long-term solution for the county was still urgently needed “to meet the ever rising demand for provision for growing numbers of children and young people with Education, Health and Care Plans”.
At the conference Mr Flinton called on Ministers and officials “to sit down with representatives from Local Government to look at how we can, together, make the case for more funding and how, together, we can make the system work more effectively.”
County Councillor Mike Jordan, Member for South Selby, said the bid’s success was a big step forward for the Selby area: “As a local member and acutely aware of the lack of provision in Selby district I welcome the success of our bid. This is a step forward by North Yorkshire to provide a local service. Funding is challenging but the County Council has a strong team of staff who are committed to making this work and it will provide that much needed local service.”
County Councillor Steph Duckett, a member for Selby Barlby division, thanked all “who worked on putting this bid together. Selby families have struggled for years with having to bus youngsters to schools in other areas. It’s a hard enough coping with SEND problems without the worry of long-distance school journeys. In my time on Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee, I have come to understand even more the problems involved in SEND provision and know how hard the County Council works to do a good job with limited funds.”
County Councillor Karl Arthur, who also represents Selby Barlby, added: “This will be of enormous benefit to children with SEND needs in the Selby district by ensuring that they can actually be educated in the Selby area rather than travelling long distances to get to schools outside the Selby area.”
Free schools are state-funded academies. They are outside local authority control and are operated by academy trusts.
As a next step the DfE will invite applications to find a trust to open the school.