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Wiltshire Council withdraws £20m plans to close special schools and reopens consultation

Wiltshire Council has announced it is extending its consultation on controversial plans to restructure its special education services and has withdrawn its decision to close three special schools.

A group of families in Wiltshire had taken the council to court over the plans to close three special schools in the area in favour of a new ‘super-school’, and had been granted a hearing scheduled for next month.

Wiltshire Council said it had now agreed a new way forward to spend the £20m investment in order to foster good working relationships with the families, prevent further delay and save public money.

The local authority has agreed to withdraw the decision to issue a statutory notice about the closure of three special schools - Larkrise, Rowdeford and St Nicholas - and withdraw the related notice regarding the opening of the super-school.

It said it will now consider other options on how it will invest £20m into special school education with at least a four-week extension of the pre-publication consultation.

Parents from Larkrise and St Nicholas launched the legal challenge against the proposals, claiming the closures would have a huge impact on their children.

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South West Wiltshire MP Andrew Murrison also held a debate in the House of Commons earlier this month stating that vulnerable young constituents and their families want the money spent on the current schools rather than a new mega-school miles from home.

The council said a new decision on the steps to be taken will be made by the authority’s cabinet this summer. Terence Herbert, the corporate director of children and education said: “we all want the very best for our children and young people with SEND.”

“Schools in the north of the county are full and there will need to be an additional 220 spaces by 2023.

“We want to work with families and staff to find a solution that both meets the need for additional places, improves outcomes for children and young people with special needs and disabilities who are educated in our mainstream, as well as special schools.

“To achieve this, we will carry out further consultation and work with all our families so we can focus on the important job of providing all our pupils with the best education and support.”

This is not the first case of families taking local authorities to court over proposed cuts to special educational needs, with parents in both Bristol and Surrey taking legal action against their councils.

Image credit - Teresa Lilley


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