SEND school places rise by a third across Hertfordshire over five-year period

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'This is a really good news story for Hertfordshire'

The number of special education needs & disabilities (SEND) places in Hertfordshire schools has risen by almost a third in the past five years.

Herts County Council’s provision for affected pupils was discussed at a meeting of the executive committee on Thursday, April 18.

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The council’s SEND planning strategy report reveals the number of SEND places currently stands at 3,114 across the county. This is an increase of 764 places (32 per cent) compared to the 2,350 offered in 2018/19.

Classroom stock image. Photo: LDRSClassroom stock image. Photo: LDRS
Classroom stock image. Photo: LDRS

A further 247 special school places are planned by September 2026.

Cllr Caroline Clapper, portfolio holder for education, said she was ‘delighted’ to present the report to the executive, adding the achievements were ‘really exciting’.

She said: ‘As members will be aware, we have a growing demand in Hertfordshire for specialist provision.

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‘We recognise that not all children can be taught in mainstream settings and we are committed to providing the right education at the right time at the right place for our children in Hertfordshire.

‘So, we have an ambitious strategy in place to try and achieve these aims. We’ve invested £91million of capital funding into the delivery of these places.’

Cllr Clapper said she wanted to ‘flag a couple of really exciting projects’.

First among them was the opening of James Marks Academy in Welwyn Hatfield in January. A secondary special free school for children with communication and autism needs, it will offer 45 places from September 2024, rising to 60 places next year.

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In Potters Bar, Journeys Academy – a council-run primary school for children with communication and autism needs – is also planned to open for 36 children from September 2025, increasing to 60 places the following year.

By September this year, 152 places for specialist needs will also have been created within mainstream schools.

Cllr Clapper said: ‘It’s really exciting because obviously we have these big new schools that are being rebuilt completely, we also have our smaller specialist resource provisions, and our strategy is working so effectively that we are even looking at smaller projects.

‘I think our smallest at the moment is delivering four additional places at the side of a school. This is making sure that all across the county, we have every type of provision in every single one of our settlements.

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‘In 2024-25, we delivered 211 places which was the highest amount we’ve delivered in any given year.

‘Our officers are doing a fantastic job trying to identify as many locations as possible, and looking at really inventive ways to deliver the best outcomes for our children here, so I’m incredibly proud to bring this report.

‘A huge amount of work has gone into the delivery so far, this is a really good news story for Hertfordshire.’

Responding to the report, Cllr Bob Deering said: ‘I just want to say that this report is fantastic. A big thankyou to Caroline, we can feel your energy and drive coming through all of this, it’s great and it’s really working for the benefit of the children of Hertfordshire.

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‘In so far as all these fantastic things you’re doing cost money, we are able to make this money available because we continue to be a very prudently managed financial organisation and we are renowned for this throughout the country.’

Cllr Eric Buckmaster praised the ‘really good work’, adding: ‘The growth in supply is extraordinary with almost 40 per cent additional places.’

Cllr Richard Roberts, leader of the council, also said the report’s findings were ‘very positive’.

He went on: ‘We said earlier in the year, it was part of our budget statement, that we put children first and the finance would follow, and I think this capital programme absolutely speaks to that.

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‘I believe that we should be looking at about 1,000 additional places by next year.

‘The £91million in the capital programme just for this should help us realise that, on behalf of parents who are desperate for places in SEND schools. The waiting list, I’m pleased to say, is starting to be managed much better than it was.’

The executive committee noted the report’s findings.

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