Councillors are planning to have 500 new specialist school places ahead of an expected rise in numbers of children on the autistic spectrum.
Half of those will be in a new special ‘free’ school, likely to be run by a trust, ready for 2024 while another 50 are due to start learning in a new £1.1 million dedicated unit at Hunsbury Park Primary School this September.
Numbers of children on the autistic spectrum are expected to increase by 40 percent over the next three years while a 25 percent increase is forecast in the overall number of children needing specialist education by 2025.
Councillor Fiona Baker, the council’s cabinet member for children, families and education, said: “Every child deserves the chance to learn and become a valued member of our community in a safe, caring, and healthy school environment.
“We have a longer-term plan to address the pressure on specialist education places, but work must take place in the short term as well.
“A shortage of places is not a challenge unique to West Northamptonshire, but I am determined we will be able to cater for every child in the best possible way we can.
“There is a presumption that this is a free school, independent from the council, and we invite academy trusts to consider bidding to provide the school.”
The council’s cabinet will discuss the consultation outcome next month and, if approved, plans for the free special school will be published for prospective sponsors.
To take part in the consultation visit the WNC Citizen Space website and search for ‘new special free school’ or by scrolling through the list of open consultations.
Response forms can also be requested by emailing [email protected] with the subject line ‘FAO new special free school presumption.’ or by calling 0300 126 7000.
Hunsbury Park was identified as the site for a new dedicated unit because it already successfully operates a smaller Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) unit and its senior leadership contains significant experience of working within specialist settings.
Councillors also recognised that its location to the south of Northampton means the school is more accessible to south Northamptonshire residents, although final approval will also follow a consultation period.