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Call for new Special Needs school for Fenland



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Renewed calls for better provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Fenland are due to be discussed by councillors on Tuesday (10).

Wisbech county councillor Sam Hoy has had to wait two months to have her motion, which is demanding a new school be built in the district to cater for the soaring demand, to be discussed by Cambridgeshire County Councillors.

Her move follows a petition presented to Cambridgeshire County Council in January by Councillor Jan French, who handed it over on behalf of a March mum, Amy Loveridge, whose son Archie was battling to find a suitable special needs place locally.

Councillor Sam Hoy. (54485782)
Councillor Sam Hoy. (54485782)

Councillor Hoy said demand for places at SEND schools is high in the area, and Fenland's children are currently being sent across the county to gain an education.

She said that Fenland has more than double the number of children waiting for SEND places than any other district in Cambridgeshire, with the district having only one special needs school - Meadowgate in Wisbech - to cater for the whole area, as well as parts of neighbouring West Norfolk.

Children face lengthy travelling times to schools outside the district in Ely, Littleport, and even as far afield as St Neots and Huntingdon.

Amy Loveridge presents her petition to Councillor Jan French who took it to the county council. (56469580)
Amy Loveridge presents her petition to Councillor Jan French who took it to the county council. (56469580)

But Coun Hoy said expecting a neuro-typical primary age child to travel up to 45 minutes or up to 75 minutes at secondary level is a big ask "let alone" a child with special needs.

She said: “There is some discussion that an expansion may be built at Meadowgate in Wisbech and at a meeting with a spokesperson yesterday (Tuesday) I was told there has been some firming up on that. But it has been talked about for years so it seems strange they are saying this now there is some pressure being put on them.

“Currently Fenland children needing a special school place are being transported to other schools, mostly in Huntingdon, Ely and Littleport.

“We are told that when the new area special school is built in Alconbury Weald this will alleviate pressure, but this would be a journey time of approximately 55 minutes for children living in Wisbech villages.

Amy Loveridge says her five-year-old son Archie was missing out on an education because of a lack of special needs places in Fenland. (56469602)
Amy Loveridge says her five-year-old son Archie was missing out on an education because of a lack of special needs places in Fenland. (56469602)

“Sending Fenland children to special schools in Huntingdon takes places that could be used by children from Huntingdon.

“Building a new school will be costly, but it is not clear how much the council is paying to transport children to other schools - the cost-savings of having Fenland children stay locally for SEND places is never discussed.”

Coun Hoy wants the county council to consider changing its school transport policy to include “more reasonable” journey times for children with SEND.

She has also asked for a report to be sent to the Children and Young People Committee setting out the costs of sending children with SEND to schools other than their local school.

Coun Hoy also wants the county council to consider committing to “urgently” building a new SEND school in the Fenland district, but said that a unit attached to an ordinary school or schools could also help the situation, if a new school is too costly.



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