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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

North London school to receive funding of £1million to accommodate SEN students

Harrow school to get nearly £1m for 30 more special needs places as demand grows

A North London primary school looks set to receive funding of nearly £1 million so it can accommodate 30 more pupils with special educational needs (SEN), at a cost of just over £32,000 per student.

There currently aren’t enough spaces in Harrow to meet the growing demand, which would otherwise force the local authority to send students outside of the borough – at nearly twice the cost.

Alexandra School in South Harrow, which is rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, provides education to 80 pupils with learning difficulties. The trust that runs the school, Eden Academy, wants the expansion to be ready for September 2025 and has asked Harrow Council to make an urgent decision on whether to agree to contribute the funding.

The demand in the borough has soared over the past few years, leaving the local authority struggling to fulfil its legal requirement to provide enough SEN places. A report by the council’s director of children’s services suggests that not committing the funds will impact children in Harrow who need special education and increase the demands on mainstream schools.

There is greater demand at Alexandra than the number of spaces available and parental preference for the school is said to be rising. Council leader, Paul Osborn, is now set to decide whether to provide £975,000 to support the expansion of the school and make sure children have the opportunity for places close to home.

According to the report, the average cost of placing a SEN pupil outside of the borough is around £70,000 to £80,000, depending on the complexity of their needs. It is estimated that increasing the number of places in the borough could save up to £1.3 million a year, with a further £210,000 saved from the SEN Transport budget.

If given the green light, the trust expects the additional spaces to be ready by September of next year – in time for the start of the academic year. Proposed works include an extension to the current building to create an additional classroom – with an internal restructure providing an additional two classrooms – a separate ‘calming room’, and an extension to the kitchen space.

The internal restructuring would mean the loss of a Food Technology room, which the school proposes replacing. The council contribution is below the total amount estimated for all the works – £1,065,909 – but the school is looking to bid for charitable funding for the remaining build cost.

The number of SEN places has increased by 84 since 2019, according to the council, with additional provision created at Pinner Wood, Stanburn, and Grange Primary Schools, as well as Belmont and Kingsley High School. A decision on whether the council will fund the Alexandra School expansion will be made at tomorrow’s meeting (9 May).

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