Oct 18 2012 by Ian Proctor, Harrow Observer
A SHORTAGE of school spaces for children with disabilities could lead to the creation of a new free school for older pupils.
Headteachers have welcomed an upcoming Harrow Council consultation which explores a range of options to tackle the rising demand for places at the borough’s four special schools, a pressure so acute, in fact, that the Labour authority is already being forced to pay to place youngsters in establishments elsewhere.
Shaftesbury High School in Headstone Lane, Harrow, which caters for 11 to 19-year-olds with moderate learning difficulties, autism and behaviour, emotional and social difficulties, is full and there are increasing numbers of young children with severe and complex needs attending Woodlands School in Bransgrove Road, Edgware, who would usually be moved to Kingsley High School in Whittlesea Road, Harrow, if it could cope.
Dennis Goldthorpe, headteacher at Alexandra School in Alexandra Avenue, South Harrow, said: “We are pleased that Harrow Council are considering how to meet the needs of the increasing number of children with complex and severe difficulties and we look forward to joining the debate.”
The two options to accommodate primary school pupils with severe and profound learning difficulties is either to create two satellite groups of six foundation pupils each at two children’s centres, with the sites identified by December, or to set up an early years centre in a new building at Woodlands School.
One of the possibilities for secondary school age pupils is to found a new centre for 80 students – 30 from Kingsley, 30 from Shaftesbury and 20 currently out of borough.
Alternatively, capacity could be increased at Kingsley High School or Shaftesbury High School.
Harrow Council’s cabinet committee approved launching the consultation on Thursday last week after it received a report which said: “The four special schools have nearly reached capacity not just in terms of classroom and small group/breakout space, but in associated infrastructure such as hall, dining facilities, equipment storage and therapy/changing facilities.
“With this, the local authority is presented with increasing difficulty in placing pupils at one of the four schools.”