School relocation part of SEND reforms

The relocation of a Wigan special needs school – the first phase of a major reform programme – could take a step forward next week.

The relocation of a Wigan special needs school – the first phase of a major reform programme – could take a step forward next week.

Hope School in Marus Bridge faces a move of several miles across to Pemberton as part of wider proposals to improve facilities and create extra places.

Cabinet members will discuss the development, which will require £10m of capital funds, next Thursday.

The reform programme, aimed at improving facilities for youngsters with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and in response to increasing demand across the borough, has been estimated to cost £34m.

Unveiled in November, ahead of a recent public consultation, council bosses have previously said the changes are ‘essential’.

According to a report tabled for the cabinet meeting, Hope School ‘does not have the space required and it has some condition issues that need to be addressed’.

A new facility that will increase the school’s capacity will be built on Montrose Avenue – the site of the former Pembec High School and Central Park Academy – within the next two years, according to the proposals.

“We intend to develop this site alongside health and adult service partners to ensure it has a more holistic response to the children, young adults and their families that access the school and additional services,” the report reads.

“We will also be considering how this can become a much more utilised community asset that will enrich the lives of the community in which it sits.”

Further phases, earmarked to take place within the next five years, could see Rowan Tree Primary in Leigh and Landgate School in Bryn either relocated or have new facilities built at their current locations.

Changes to Willow Grove Primary, Oakfield High and Newbridge Learning Community School are tabled for within the next five to 10 years.

A report presented to the cabinet in November from director for children and families, James Winterbottom, said demand for ‘special school or resourced places’ will increase by 35pc by 2036 with the council now facing ‘real challenges’ to meet these requirements.

And with local government budgets under increasing pressure, the rising costs of placing students out of the borough are having a significant impact, he added.

Capital funds already earmarked for school places could cover the initial £10m cost and section 106 payments from housing developers could be used, according to a previous council report.

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