Special needs education in Suffolk to get £45m boost

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Suffolk is facing an 18% increase in demand for specialist places and needs an extra 300-400 new places by 2020

A local authority is to borrow up to £30m to fund hundreds of new special educational needs (SEND) school places.

Suffolk County Council wants to create more than 800 new places. This will take five years and cost about £45m.

The Conservative council's cabinet has approved the first phase of the programme to create places ready for September 2020.

It will borrow a maximum of £30m with a further £15m expected to come from government (DfE) funding pots.

The council expects to spend £24m on the first phase of the programme which includes building new special schools in Ipswich, Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds, and creating 36 new specialist units attached to mainstream schools.

Conservative cabinet member Gordon Jones said this was the largest expansion of special education in Suffolk in the last 50 years.

"Suffolk will be able to offer the vast majority of pupils a school tailored to meet their needs closer to home," he said.

Labour education spokesman Jack Abbott said he was "pleased that finance has now been secured".

"The challenge now is to deliver these new places as quickly as possible," he added.

The Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group welcomed the plan but added more was still needed, said the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Meanwhile Jo Hammond, of Suffolk Parent Carer Network, said: "This investment gives us confidence that our hopes of all of our children and young people with special education needs and disabilities being able to access good quality education provision that is local to home, may become more of a reality."

A council spokeswoman said up to £30m would have to be borrowed from banks, but it was confident, "where possible, and before any commitment to borrowing, DfE funds would be utilised, including free school bidding rounds and DfE SEND capital."

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