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Tuesday, 21 July 2020 18:54

New Special School in Sheppey for 2022; Sponsor Announced

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Kent County Council has announced details of the new Special School to be opened on the Isle of Sheppey in 2022, catering for children with Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) difficulties, including Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) and social communication difficulties. It will be run by the SABDEN Multi Academy Trust from East Sussex and will be built on Council owned land at the former Darnley Road Middle School site. It has been part of KCC planning for some years, meeting a real need in the area and will complement the new Aspire Special School, catering for primary aged children with ASD or speech, language and communication needs, which is opening in Sittingbourne in September. 

KCc applied for the new school under the government’s Wave 2 (Special School and Alternative Provision) back in October 2018, and this was approved in March 2019, as confirmed here, subject to a sponsor being agreed. It is included in Sunday’s government announcement of 35 new special schools, the sponsorship news being held back to follow the announcement. This originally stated that there would be three new schools in the South East, providing over 300 places for children with SEMH and ASD, although the statement was altered shortly afterwards to read 'four schools in the South East' rather than three.

The new school is classified as a Free School, and so needed a sponsor, KCC having selected the SABDEN Multi-Academy Trust. This appears a very good move, as SABDEN brings extensive relevant expertise and high standards to the task (see below). 21 of Kent's current 22 special schools are KCC controlled and so were not eligible to act as sponsors. The only special school amongst Kent’s many Academy Trusts is the Ofsted Outstanding all age Milestone Academy, part of the large Leigh Academy Trust, which will also run the new Snowfields Academy, a new special school in Maidstone, opening in September. However, the Trust was presumably not considered suitable for whatever reason. 

Need for a New School
‘The Kent Commissioning Plan for Education Provision 2018-22 sets out the need for new secondary special school provision on the Isle of Sheppey for students with ASD and SEMH needs. Currently there is no special school on the Island, which is home to the largest number of EHCPs and statements in the County at 1,325, with significant future growth forecast. The result is that students requiring a special school place are transported off the Island to a combination of maintained special school provision in Maidstone and costly independent provision. Consequently, students spend up to 3 hours in transport, at considerable cost to the SEN Transport budget and with an inevitable impact on those children’s learning’. (see here and 2018 Kent Schools commissioning Plan). There is an error in this statement as the 1,325 EHCPs are in the whole of Swale District, not just Sheppey, but the pressure on places is still real.  

The new school will cater for just 120 pupils in Years 7-11 but, with 40% of Kent pupils with EHCPs currently in mainstream schools, it is unlikely this will meet the full need. There is already an all-through special school in Sittingbourne, Meadowfield, and this offers a different set of specialisms, focusing on children with profound, severe and complex needs.

SABDEN Multi Academy Trust (I just wish the Trust’s company name was not all in capital letters!)
SABDEN runs five establishments, with a sixth opening in September. College Central is the Pupil Referral Unit or PRU for East Sussex; Cuckmere House School on the same site is a special school that makes provision for children and young people with social, emotional & mental health needs (SEMH) from Key Stage 1 to 4 with the remarkable achievement of having four consecutive Outstanding Ofsted Reports; Lansdowne School, based in Landsdowne Secure Children’s Home, catering for up to seven young people aged 10-17; New Horizons School caters for students with SEMH across both primary and secondary phases with has had two consecutive Outstanding Ofsted Reports; and St Mary’s School, a rural secondary special school for students with SEMH, two consecutive Good Ofsted inspections pointing on the way up further since academisation. A second PRU, The Workplace, is opening in September. 
Last modified on Wednesday, 22 July 2020 06:27

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