Four sites earmarked for expanding special needs education capacity, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
Enfield Council is looking to develop new school buildings for children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) to meet growing demand.
The council is drawing up a viability study to examine the potential of four sites in Enfield that could be used to build Send school buildings.
According to a council report, there has been a “significant increase” in Send provision during recent years, with the town hall putting in extra resources and commissioning designated units within mainstream schools.
But the report adds that because of a “limited capacity to expand existing SEN schools, the council wants to establish “brand new provision on a scale that would make a significant contribution to addressing demand”.
The report was presented to the children, young people and education scrutiny panel on Wednesday. Neil Best, head of education strategic resourcing and partnerships at the council, told the meeting: “All of our Send schools are pretty much at capacity. We have extended them all, pretty much, to this point.”
He added: “Our work now turns to looking at new sites. We are undertaking some viability studies on sites.”
The report reveals the proportion of Enfield pupils on education, health and care plans (EHCPs) – which provide extra support for those with special educational needs – has increased at a higher rate than the national average and grew from 3,262 to 3,783 during the past year.
It adds that more than 600 children are currently being educated out of the borough, which is putting pressure on budgets.
Three of the sites identified by the council for potential new school buildings are Addison House in Southgate, the former Eldon Road Tuition Centre in Edmonton, and Bell Lane in Enfield Wash.
Neil said the search for sites was “ongoing” and pointed out that the council was not the only organisation vying for land.
The council also hopes to raise more money to invest in Send provision by selling off vacant school caretakers’ houses. It is investing £1m in speech, language and communication needs and autism to enable early intervention and reduce the number of EHCPs.
Glynis Vince, a Conservative panel member, thanked officers for the report and said they had done a “fantastic job”.