Three new schools are set to be built in Chelmsford and Witham, greatly expanding the provision of Special Educational Needs (SEND) places in Essex.
At an Essex County Council Cabinet meeting today (Tuesday, 26th February) councillors agreed to progress with three projects which will provide much-needed school places for children and young people with autism and social and emotional health needs in Essex – at no extra burden to county taxpayers.
Essex County Council has been working with the Department for Education (DfE) to enable the building of the three new Special Education Needs (SEND) schools in Chelmsford and Witham.
This project will provide 209 new places in the county for children with autism and social and emotional mental health needs, 30 of which will be residential.
Two schools will be built on the old St Peter's College site in Fox Crescent, Chelmsford, and one will be built on a site close to the New Rickstones Academy in Conrad Road, Witham.
These projects all reuse existing education land. No land has had to be purchased for this project and the schools will all be centrally funded by £23m in grants from the DfE.
Currently Essex County Council's infrastructure team have all the approvals from the DfE to commence the design and consult with the local community on all three schools.
Each of the new SEND schools will be sponsored by a different Multi-Academy Trust (MAT).
The school in Witham will be sponsored by the Market Field Trust, which operates Market Field School in Elmstead Market, near Colchester, a school rated outstanding by Ofsted at its last inspection in July 2015. This school will be known as The Chatten Free School after Brad Chatten, a former student at Market Field School.
One of the schools in Chelmsford will be sponsored by the Seax Trust, who currently sponsor the city's Thriftwood School and College, which was rated outstanding by Ofsted at its last inspection in September 2017.
The other school in Chelmsford will be sponsored by the Beckmead Trust, a trust new to Essex, which runs the Beckmead Family of Schools in the Croydon area. Beckmead School, operated by this trust, was rated outstanding by Ofsted at its last inspection in January 2019.
Consultations with local communities near to all three schools are now set to take place during spring of this year.
Councillor Ray Gooding, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Education, said: “The need for school places for children and young adults with autism and social and emotional mental health needs has been rising. We are determined to meet that need even though these are financially straitened times.
“Direct grants from the DfE, the reuse of land already allocated for education purposes and the involvement of our multi-academy trust partners, means Essex County Council can provide excellent education to many more children and young adults with special educational needs in the county without placing any extra burden upon the Essex taxpayer.
“These three exciting projects underline Essex's desire to become an outstanding provider of education to all of its children and young people."