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Debate on £120m investment for special needs education in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 14:31 22 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:31 22 October 2018

Provision for children with special educational needs or disabilities in Norfolk could get a major cash boost if county councillors approve the plans. Photo credit should read: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire

Provision for children with special educational needs or disabilities in Norfolk could get a major cash boost if county councillors approve the plans. Photo credit should read: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire

Proposals which could see millions of pounds spent to improve teaching for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Norfolk are set to go before a second council committee.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Picture: Neil PerryAndrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Picture: Neil Perry

The proposals from Norfolk County Council, unveiled in July, would see the authority invest £120m in specialist school places and services and develop more outreach to support children in mainstream schools.

Its policy and resources committee is due to discuss the proposals at a meeting on October 29, where members will also be asked to give the green light to an initial £4.8m investment to get work off the ground.

The vision for more specialist resource bases (specialist units in mainstream schools), which could create and extra 170 places, and four new special schools was agreed in principle by the children’s services committee in July.

The council hopes these changes will ease pressure on Norfolk’s 13 existing special schools and mean more children can be taught close to home.

Due to a shortage of school places, some 300 SEND pupils are currently educated at independent schools in Norfolk or other local authorities.

Substantial borrowing will be required for the council to build the new complex needs schools and a range of bases at mainstream schools, specialising in autism spectrum disorder, learning and cognition needs, and social, emotional and mental health needs.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “Our special schools are among the best in the country but they are at capacity and we want to create more spaces in Norfolk for our children, so that they can be taught near to their homes and don’t have to travel long distances to school.

“This is the right thing for children and the right thing for Norfolk – investing in education so that we reduce high cost placements and travel costs in the years ahead.”

Documents prepared for the policy and resources committee say the proposals will be implemented in two phases, over three and five years respectively.

At its meeting the committee is being asked to approve investment of up to £100m for the first phase, to “establish new specialist provision”, and a further £20m for associated outreach and early intervention services.

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