Planning bid submitted for expanded Norfolk special school
Plans to expand and relocate a Norfolk special school have moved a step closer today after a planning application was submitted for the proposals.
Norfolk County Council wants to move Fred Nicholson School from its current home, in Dereham, to a new site in Lynn Road, Swaffham, to ensure it can better meet the needs of its growing number of pupils.
The relocation would see the school officially grow from 173 to 225 pupils from April 2025. It also means it will be able to support children from reception through to sixth form - currently the school caters for children aged five to 16. The school's Orchard Autism Specialist Resource Base (SRB) would also move as part of the plans.
The school has already started to support some children moving into its sixth form and has outgrown its current site. Many of the additional places created by the move are already taken.
The move is part of the council's £100m investment with the Department for Education, to support children with special educational needs and disabilities. Known as Local First Inclusion, the programme builds on the £120m investment already made by the council, which has seen the creation of 650 new specialist places over five years.
Cllr Penny Carpenter, Cabinet Member for Children's Services at Norfolk County Council, said: "We want every child with special educational needs to flourish, whether that's in mainstream schools or specialist schools like Fred Nicholson.
"Growing demand for places means that Fred Nicholson has completely outgrown its current building and the school needs to move, so that it can continue to provide the brilliant education it offers its children.
"It's just one of the projects we're investing in for children with SEND - we're supporting mainstream schools so that they can help children earlier, investing in our own teams and building hundreds of new specialist places."
Consultation has already taken place on the proposed move, with in person sessions taking place at the school and broad support for the proposals. There will now be further consultation as part of the planning process.
Jane Hayman, Headteacher of the Fred Nicholson School, said: "We are delighted at the fantastic opportunity this move could give our young people and the team here - it's a very exciting prospect.
"We recognise the significant impact the expansion of our school could have on the wider SEND community in Norfolk as we can offer more places to more children from a wider age range.
"Our aim is always to provide the best possible specialist education for all our children and young people, to build for successful futures and flourish towards independence."
No decisions have been made about the future of the current Fred Nicholson site. If the move goes ahead, the council's Children's Services department will first consider if it can be kept for education use before the council explores any further options.
Councillor William Nunn, county councillor for Swaffham, said: "I'm excited about the prospect of this great school moving to Swaffham. It will give more children with special educational needs the chance to learn more locally, in modern facilities. I would encourage those living locally to look at the plans and respond to the consultation."
The Fred Nicholson school is rated good by Ofsted. Some of its accommodation is now significantly ageing with very limited opportunity for expanding the school buildings on the current site.
If the proposal goes ahead, the council would continue to arrange travel for home to school in line with its SEND transport policy and would make appropriate arrangements for children with the same transport operator where possible.
The distance between the two sites is a 20-minute drive along the A47.