An Exmouth school’s plan for a purpose-built education hub for children with social, emotional and health needs has been hailed as ‘essential’ by town representatives.
Civic leaders were so impressed with Marpool Primary School’s proposed scheme they proclaimed last night: “It would be an absolute disgrace if we turned it down.”
The Moorfield Road school has asked for permission to construct an 580sq m building on part of its grounds currently ‘overgrown with brambles’.
Headteacher Rachel Pattison says the ‘resource base’ will allow staff to offer a ‘more bespoke’ learning experience to youngsters who struggle in mainstream education.
It would initially support eight children, but, funding permitting, could accommodate up to 24 to meet demand within the community.
The application won the support of Exmouth Town Council’s planning committee.
Deputy mayor Councillor Brian Bailey said: “If we turn this down, we are doing a disservice to the public of Exmouth and their children.
“I think it is essential that we do this. There’s obviously a demand and there’s plenty of room left there [the school site], after. It’s a huge site and it’s right nextdoor to the mother and child unit, which is ideal.
“It would be an absolute disgrace if we turned it down.”
Cllr Joe Whibley said: “It is quite a large site. There’s quite a lot of green there and, as somebody who has worked in the field there, it’s not building school after school, it’s building a resource the school and the area really needs.
“There’s not a great deal of resources in Exmouth for children with those kinds of special needs. They have got to get a bus to various places outside of East Devon.
“To have that here on a site that’s a large green field, and, yes, some of that will be lost, I just think it’s a fantastic opportunity for Exmouth to get something like that.”
Cllr Frank Cullis expressed concern over the scheme and said: “The loss of green outdoor play space in our schools is not something I can support. We must stop cramming more buildings to take more pupils until there is barely a blade of grass left.
“Giving children the best start in life, giving them the best education, in safe, clean, green schools needs to be recognised as a priority and the solution of just putting more buildings on the existing sites needs to stop and that’s why I recommend refusal.”
Headteacher Mrs Pattison has told planning authority East Devon District Council (EDDC): “The new building for which we have applied for permission will be integral to our main school.
“The building will support and enhance the current facilities offered at Marpool and in addition provide a space for the education of those children unable to meet the demands of mainstream education.
“As such, the space will initially be used by up to eight additional pupils in the first instance. These children will be supported by up to six staff.
“This is based on the service level agreement that Devon County Council (DCC) has entered with the school to fund up to eight laces initially.
“It should be noted that four of the pupils hoping to learn in the resource base are already attending Marpool Primary School and no additional staff will be required as they already work with the children within our current setting.
“The remaining four places will be additional children and may require additional staff dependent upon needs.
“This equates to between one and two per cent pupil and staff increase.
“I am aware there is a greater demand within our local community and as a result we have, with our design, allocated space to provide education for up to 24 children.
“This would be reliant upon securing additional funding from DCC.
“At expected capacity, I would be estimating up to 24 additional children in total with approximately 10 members of staff.
“This equates to an increase of approximately five per cent and eight per cent of pupils and staff respectively.”
EDDC will decide the fate of the application.