Wandsworth councillors back £5m plan to expand schools for children with special needs and disabilities

Wandsworth councillors have approved proposals to expand support for schools for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND).

The funding will pay for 119 additional places at schools for children with a range of needs.

Earlier this week, the council’s education and children’s services overview and scrutiny committee approved schemes, costing just under £5m, to improve support for SEND children in Wandsworth.

Last year there were more than 530 pupils attending Wandsworth’s network of special schools and 246 SEND pupils at mainstream schools.

The borough’s director of children’s services Ana Popovici said: “We want Wandsworth to be a place where children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities are everyone’s priority and feel like they belong in an inclusive local community.”

Michael Reeves, Headteacher of Garratt Park School said: “The extra funding is really good news for us to stabilise our finances and have more resources for children.

“We have plenty of space and it has also helped with a small increase of staff.

“We are able to increase capacity because the advisory committee took up the equivalent to a classroom has moved out and we now have space available for children instead.

“The feedback that I received from parents is positive, I am not aware that there has been any worries about it and staff similarly are very much on board.”

Around £20m was spent supporting these children at school.

Another £9m was used to fund SEND children who attend schools in the private and independent sector.

These include the establishment of a new resource base at Swaffield primary school in Southfields for up to 16 children with autism (ASD) or social, emotional and mental health needs/anxiety (SEMH).

Over the past five years, the number of Wandsworth children and young people with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) has increased by 78%.

This figure is predicted to increase by a further 8.9% over the next decade.

Some of the children currently attending private or independent special schools, or who are being taught at home, will benefit from this proposed expansion of provision.

It will mean some spending less time travelling to out of borough placements, allowing them to spend more time with their peers and make friends in their neighbourhoods while being able to attend and integrate into their local school and community.

The scrutiny committee’s decision to support these proposals will now be considered by the council’s executive.

The decision by councillors to expand school places follows hot on the heels of a £153,000 council investment in improving the facilities at a playground on Wandsworth Common, designed for use by children with disabilities and special needs.

The Lady Allen playground is run by charity KIDS and supports children with a range of special needs and disabilities.

It also receives an annual council grant worth around £138,000 every year to fund its day-to-day operations and staffing costs.

It supports profoundly disabled children with cerebral palsy, visual impairments, hearing impairments, severe developmental delay, children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, children with varying degrees of learning disability, children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, children with ADHD and also children who are still being diagnosed.

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