THE OBSERVER can reveal plans have been submitted for a specialist autism Free School to be set up in Solihull.
Councillor Ken Meeson, cabinet member for children, education and skills, confirmed a funding package from the Department of Education (DfE) has been applied for – although it missed out on the last round of funding.
He also expressed his desire to continue making improvements for children with special educational needs (SEND) in the borough.
Coun Meeson said: “We are keen to see a specialist Autism School set up within the borough and we submitted a bid to the DfE in their SEND funding programme but our area was not selected in that round.
“Any new school would be a Free School and we are continuing to seek funding (including through our MPs) and find a suitable site.”
A free school is a state-funded school which is free to attend but not wholly controlled by a local authority, in order to set up a free school, founding groups submit applications to the Department for Education.
A council spokesperson said the number of pupils will depend on the funding available but it is expected to cater for 80 to 100 pupils.
Specialist schools are staffed by fully qualified specialist teachers.
It is hoped the new school will prevent some children from travelling to schools outside the borough for appropriate schooling.
Parents are eager to be included in the planning for the new school.
Coun Meeson has suggested a ’round-table’ style discussion with members from these groups could be beneficial.
Debby Allen, said any new school should emulate some of the practices at her son’s new school at Independent Educational Services (IES) in Nuneaton.
The education centres cater to young people with SEN between the ages of 10-25 and offer bespoke and tailored educational services.
She said: “IES is basically about the child first then the education. My son has one to one support which he needs with his sensory processing disorder. They get to understand the child first and work with them.
“It’s often one child per class room and kids earn money and rewards to reach their targets in their education and healthcare plans.”
While difficulties exist on a national level such as problems with issuing education health and care plans, receiving clinical diagnoses and support as well as managing serious mental health conditions.
Improvements have been made in many other departments such as the conversion of old education plans to the new framework.
But Solihull has been criticised by the Care Quality Commission for its ‘lack of suitable Autism provision’ and its exceptionally ‘high rates of exclusion and persistent absence’.