Suffolk County Council agrees a new approach to specialist education placements

Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet has today agreed a recommendation to introduce a new approach to the development of specialist education placements for children and young people between the ages of 5 and 25 in Suffolk.

The need will be met in Suffolk by developing a combination of new specialist support centres and new special schools, using independent placements from private providers for only a small number of very specialist needs.

A policy development panel will be established immediately to realise these local education places as swiftly as possible.

The demand for specialist education places in Suffolk is rising rapidly due to the county’s population growth, advances in medicine and increasing complexity of special educational needs. The challenges Suffolk is facing mirrors the national picture.

Councillor Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education and skills, said: “I welcome the decision made today. It follows a comprehensive analysis and consultation where we have listened to and considered the views of our services users, partners and providers on the best way to grow our specialist education local offer both in the short term and in the long term to meet future demand.”

“We have a statutory obligation to provide a suitable education placement for every child of school age and for young people with special educational needs up to the age of 25.

“The number of children and young people with SEND is rising rapidly and Suffolk is not alone in this – this is affecting all authorities in England.  

Work has already taken place in the county to deal with the increase in demand for specialist education places. A new special school in Lowestoft opened in September 2017 and following Department for Education approval another special school will open in Ipswich in  2020. Several of the county’s existing special schools have expanded and a new campus with additional space for Riverwalk School in Bury St Edmunds opened this September. Work has also taken place to establish a number of additional specialist small groups for specific local needs.