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Suffolk County Council backs £24m borrowing to create first wave of specialist education places

Plans to borrow £24.1m to develop new specialist education places have been approved by Suffolk County Council, with the first wave of new places expected to be ready for September 2020.

A cross-party working group came up a £45m plan to develop hundreds of new places for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to be educated closer to home – proposals which were backed by the council.

Now the authority’s cabinet has unanimously backed the first phase of loans, and will borrow £24.1m in order to set up the first wave of places between September 2020 and 2021.

Gordon Jones, the cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, called it the “largest expansion in Suffolk in the last 50 years.”

He said: “This will mean, for the first time in many years, Suffolk will be able to offer the vast majority of pupils a school tailored to meet their needs closer to home.

“I believe this is the most important proposal I have brought to cabinet.”

The complete £45m plan includes building new special schools in Ipswich, Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds, and the creation of 36 new specialist units attached to mainstream schools.

Labour education spokesman, Jack Abbot, said: “I'm pleased that finance has now been secured so that these plans, as developed by a cross-party panel, can be put into action.

“There is no doubting the positive impact these proposals could have for hundreds of children – however, the challenge now is to deliver these new SEND places as quickly as possible.

“With demand for SEND places rapidly increasing, families cannot afford any of the usual Suffolk County Council lethargy. Let's hope that they seize this opportunity.”

Image credit -  Oxymoron


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