East Devon: New specialist school to be built in Cranbrook area

A new specialist school will be built in the Cranbrook area after the East Devon town was chosen as one of 33 locations across the country by the Government.

It will cater for youngsters aged nine to 16 and provide up to 70 additional places for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), writes Local Democracy Reporter Ollie Heptinstall.

Devon County Council (DCC) is looking to increase the amount of SEND places it can provide directly as those at independent schools cost it significantly more money.

Devon was last year hit with a government improvement notice for its services for SEND children, which it runs in partnership with NHS Devon.

The Conservative-run council and NHS Devon both apologised after a revisit by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission last May found that progress had not been made in fixing four areas of significant concern identified in December 2018.

A protest by SEND parents was also held at County Hall last month over what they said was a poor provision by the council in supporting children with additional needs.

Welcoming the new school, cabinet member for children’s services Councillor Andrew Leadbetter said: “We’re trying to change the system to obviously offer a much better service to our parents, and this is part of our strategy to have more schools.”

He added: “We are really pleased we’ve got this money from the Government, because it’s something we want to do.”

It is not yet known exactly where or when the new school in the Cranbrook area will be built.

Another school catering for children with SEND, the Promise School in Okehampton, opened its doors to pupils in September, while another is planned for Ivybridge.

Cllr Leadbetter also said long-running negotiations were still ongoing with the Department for Education about DCC’s large ongoing overspend on supporting children.

Since 2020, councils across the country have been told by the Government to put their SEND overspends into separate, ring-fenced accounts while it develops a new funding model. This arrangement was recently extended to 2026.

It means Devon’s total running overspend on the service – effectively debt – is projected to be £127million at the end of this month and financial year –  rising to £153million by March 2024.

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