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Proposal to relocate and expand complex needs school

Norfolk County Council, 27 February 2023 00:00

A Norfolk complex needs school could be relocated and expanded offering 52 additional specialist places for children with SEND, if a scheme proposed by Norfolk County Council goes ahead.

The first stage of the proposal to move the Fred Nicholson Complex Needs School in Westfield Road, Dereham to a new site in Lynn Road, Swaffham, will happen on Monday 6 March when the council's cabinet will decide whether to go ahead and buy the required land.

If this land purchase is approved and completed, a planning application would be submitted alongside a planning consultation in Spring this year. The council and school governors would also run a consultation about the proposed changes to the school.

The proposal is for a new bigger school to be built at the site with a complete range of new facilities and an expanded intake to 225 students aged from five to 19. This would mean the school could accommodate reception age through to sixth form age children for the first time. The school's Orchard Autism Specialist Resource Base (SRB) would also move.

The plans are part of the council's new six-year Local First Inclusion SEND improvement programme, which aims to ensure children and young people can get an education with the right support for their needs in their local area first, whether that's a special school or well-supported provision within the mainstream.

The programme will see increased outreach support and advice for schools and early help for families and aims to continue to deliver hundreds of new specialist education places through new-build schools, more specialist resource bases (SRBs) and school-led Alternative Provision across the county.

Councillor John Fisher, cabinet member for Children's Services, said: "We are delighted to be working on this bold new plan with the Fred Nicholson School to help them expand their already excellent offer to more children and young people with SEND.

"It's early days, but we're determined to continue our work to provide more specialist places throughout the county so more children who need specialist provision can access it and flourish in their education."

Jane Hayman, Executive 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."

Councillor Fabian Eagle, county councillor for The Brecks, said: "The proposed site is easily accessible from the A47 and, Swaffham being the heart of a rural area, this new school will provide a welcome boost to the education facilities for the villages around Swaffham and west Norfolk."

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.

If approved, the new school could open in 2025.

Cabinet will consider the report when it meets at 10am on Monday 6 March. You can read the report and watch the meeting, live or afterwards, on the council website. (opens new window)

Last modified: 14 May 2024 12:45

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