Essex County Council is set to spend about £85million creating more than 400 new special school places across Essex.
The record investment comes following an increase in the number of young people in the county being diagnosed with autism and with a growing demand for special school places.
The £85million includes £42million from the Essex Schools Forum, as well as £43million of capital funding from Essex County Council.
Exact proposals have yet to be finalised but the new places are likely to include:
- 24 new places in the Braintree district for pupils with severe physical and neurological needs
- A new 70-place school for children with social, emotional and mental health needs in the Chelmsford area
- 80 additional places for pupils with severe needs in the Colchester area
- 20 new boarding places for pupils with severe needs in the Castle Point/Rochford area
- 24 new places for pupils with autism or social emotional and mental health needs in the Epping Forest district
Subject to planning processes, it is hoped building works will start in 2018.
Three separate free school applications are also set to be submitted to the Government this month.
They include proposals for a 75-place autism-specific school in the Braintree district (for pupils with severe needs), a 70-place autism-specific school in the Chelmsford area (for pupils of mainstream ability but with anxiety and/or behavioural problems) and a 60-place school in the Harlow district (for children with autism or social, emotional and mental health needs).
Cllr Ray Gooding, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “We are committed to ensuring all children in Essex receive the best possible education and pupils’ individual needs are met.
“As with mainstream school places, demand for special school places is growing and I am delighted these exciting plans are moving forward.
“We already have some excellent special schools in Essex, with every single one in the county currently rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted.
“However, more capacity is still needed if we are going to reduce the distance young people are having to travel to school and meet the needs of the rising number of children being diagnosed with autism in Essex.”
Gary Smith, Headteacher at Market Field School, near Colchester, and chairman of the Essex Special Schools Education Trust, said: “This announcement is absolutely fantastic news and the result of a lot of hard negotiating.
“We hope that this investment will be a massive step towards an Essex place for every Essex child.”
Rod Lane, Chair of Governors at Great Bradfords Infant and Nursery School, Braintree, and Chairman of the Essex Schools Forum, added: “This is truly great news and will benefit all children in Essex.
“Our Schools Forum members are pleased that following careful negotiating and planning this project is now progressing towards the delivery stage.”