Plans approved to increase number of places at special school in Hemel Hempstead

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Hertfordshire County Council has approved £2.63million plans to increase the number of places at three special schools.

As part of the plans, the number of places at Greenside Community Special School, in Stevenage, will increase by 16.

The number of places at Woodfield Community Special School, in Hemel Hempstead, will increase by 32.

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And there will be a further eight additional places at Lakeside Community Special School, in Welwyn Garden City.

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Following public consultation, the county council's cabinet (February 24) backed the plans and agreed to publish statutory notices for the places to be available from September (2020).

And they also approved funding of £2.63m for necessary improvements at the thee schools.

Executive member for education, libraries and localism Cllr Terry Douris said the proposals reflected rising demand for special school places.

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And he said the additional places would mean fewer children would have to be educated out of the county.

Executive member for children, young people and families Cllr Teresa Heritage said it was important for the well-being of these pupils that they remained in the county, 'where we can look after them'.

And executive member for resources and performance Cllr Ralph Sangster said it would reduce financial pressures too - by reducing the costs associated with travel out of the county.

According to a report to the cabinet, there are increasing numbers of children who need a place at a special school - with a number of special schools across the county already full.

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And the proposals will ensure that the needs of children whose Education Health and Care Plan identify a need for a special school place for children with 'severe learning difficulties' will be met.

Cllr Douris said that the plans to expand Greenside and Lakeside had been met with 'signifcant approval'.

But he did highlight 'a body of opposition' with concerns relating to the 32 additional places at Woodfield.

Of the 77 parents, staff members, governors and residents who responded 16 said they disagreed.

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Concerns focussed on the impact it would have on the 'small school ethos' and the increased levels of traffic and parking.

However it was reported that, in practice, the 88-pupil school already has 104 pupils on roll - just 16 fewer than the proposed limit.

It was reported that there was no direct relationship between the size of a school, the standards it achieves and its overall effectiveness.

And councillors were told there were plans to create 16 additional car parking spaces, to introduce new drop off and pick up arrangements within the site and to introduce a school travel plan.

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Of the 47 people who responded to the consultation on the plans for Lakeside Special School, just one residents said they disagreed - with a further four saying they 'didn't know'.

And at Greenside there were 22 responses to the plans. Four disagreed, 15 agreed and three said they 'didn't know'.