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New hubs for school children with additional needs

child special needs

Published at 7:43am 20th July 2018. (Updated at 9:23am 20th July 2018)

Dorset children with additional educational needs are now more likely to go to school closer to home.

Five new units will open this September with more to follow next year.

Dorset County Council’s Cabinet meeting on Wednesday approved the new bases at Dorchester Learning Centre, Monkton Park; the Compass Learning Centre, Weymouth; Forum Centre, Blandford; Parley First School and West Moors Middle School.

Dorchester Learning Centre at Monkton Park

They are part of a £3million investment in special educational needs places in the rural county, originally agreed in April. Eventually there will be eight bases.

Said education briefholder Cllr Andrew Parry at the Cabinet meeting: “We, as a council, are absolutely determined to deliver on our statutory requirement through this investment.”

He says the new places will offer more specialist support closer to home for more families and children – avoiding out of county provision and reducing travel times and costs.

A further paper is expected later this year proposing additional places at other schools with the aim of more than 80-85 places being operational by September 2019.

Dorset has seen a 49 per cent increase in children with an Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP), formally known as SEN statements. There were 2,094 children and young people with an EHCP at the end of March and the council expects that figure to have increased to more than 2,440 by 2023.

During the four-week public consultation there were no responses to the proposals at all – something which concerned some councillors at Wednesday’s Cabinet.


Cllr Daryl Turner said that the public announcement notice could have been better designed to catch attention: “The message seems to have been lost in a massive amount of text,” he said.

Cllr Peter Wharf described the decision as “a good news story” but said that more could be done to explain why the council is taking steps to provide the additional specialist places.

Council chairman Hilary Cox also supported the idea of telling the good news story: “This is providing more specialist education close to home…we are taking into account the needs of people and their families,” she said.

In a news release after the meeting Cllr Parry said: “We’re seeing more pupils in mainstream education who need specialist help with their communication skills. We have a duty to support these children and believe it’s important to provide that support in Dorset schools, closer to where they live.

“This investment allows us to utilise the expertise we have in Dorset and reduce the need for out-of-county placements. It will also cut down travel times for pupils, which will be much better for children and their families.”

By Local Democracy Reporter, Trevor Bevins

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