New special school needed amid pupil autism rise – council – BBC.com


A new school for children with special educational needs is needed in Newcastle, council bosses have said.
Up to 380 new places are required according to Mark Patton, Newcastle City Council's assistant director for education and skills.
He said there had been a steep rise in the number of pupils diagnosed with autism since 2020.
The council said it was looking for suitable sites, although it could take between three and five years to build.
Speaking to the council's overview and scrutiny committee, Mr Patton said there was a "real pressing need" for new facilities if Newcastle children with extra needs are going to be educated within the city and not forced to travel elsewhere.
He said the pressure on special school places in the coming years was "very real", according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
The number of pupils in Newcastle identified with special educational needs has jumped from 6,262 in 2017 to 6,618 in 2021.
The city currently has 356 placements for children and young people with autism at the specialist Thomas Bewick School in West Denton and within mainstream schools, while commissioning a further 110 at independent providers at a price of £3.2m.
Thomas Bewick School has grown from having 53 pupils when it opened in 1999 to 274 pupils on the roll at present and it now operates across three sites.
Mr Patton said: "Given the previous growth and current size of Thomas Bewick School, indications are that an additional special school will be required as well as new or enlarged additional resourced provision within mainstream."
He said the council had also already increased capacity at Sir Charles Parsons and Trinity Schools and invested in specialist teachers and training to support children with autism in mainstream schools.
But he said there was still a "greater demand for places than can be [currently] met" with the council "more reliant on independent special schools and providers, particularly for pupils with autism".
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Newcastle City Council
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