This is our second Special Schools Project Newsletter to update on progress to ensure we have sufficient provision for special schools places in the north of Wiltshire.
Things are moving forward and below we provide some detail on the latest progress.
But firstly to recap: back in November 2019 Wiltshire Council cabinet met and agreed to go ahead with one school across three sites. We have been meeting regularly to make preparations together. The project is continuing during the COVID-19 difficulties, with meetings being held online.
Wiltshire Council cabinet agreed to:
Establish a new, maintained special school with a single leadership team to work across all three sites of St Nicholas, Rowdeford and Larkrise schools. This would be carried out by 1 September 2021 and would mean that the three schools would close as separate schools, but open as one school
Expand on the existing Rowdeford site to accommodate up to 400 pupils as part of the new special school by September 2023
Approved that the sites of St Nicholas and Larkrise stay in use until the new provision is ready, and it is appropriate to consider children transitioning to the new site at Rowdeford. Further consultation on this appropriateness will happen no later than 12 months before opening all the new provision and then the results of this would need cabinet approval before anything else happens. This consultation will be determined by the demand for places, views of stakeholders and wider development of inclusive education for children and young people with SEND living in Wiltshire.
Following the cabinet meeting Wiltshire Council presented this proposal to The Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA), who will make the final ruling on these proposed arrangements. We are liaising with the OSA and assisting them with any questions they have so that they may make their decision.
You can watch the cabinet meeting here or go to the Wiltshire Council website.
Latest news from the pre-shadow governing body
We have a pre-shadow governing body which meets regularly to oversee the progress of the project. As a group we have made progress with the following five key tasks:
Creating the shadow governing body which will be set up once we have approval from the Office of Schools Adjudicator (OSA)
Drawing up a job description and advert for the new Executive Head
Planning for children/young people who need a special school place in September 2020
Shaping a vision for the new school
Appointing an architect and contractor to take forward the new build
The working group has set up some sub groups to work on these five areas. We will share their questions, thoughts and decisions through this newsletter as we move forward.
A key milestone will be when we have a decision from the OSA following which the next key steps can be taken, for example the shadow governing body will be formed and the recruitment process for the Executive Head can begin.
The building works
A strategic brief has been developed since our last newsletter that covers all aspects of the build project. We are close to being in a position to appoint our architect and contractor who we will be working with us to design the new special school buildings at Rowdeford. We hope to have completed the appointment by the end of April which will be a key milestone for the project.
The coronavirus (Covid-19) is likely to have an impact on the pace of the project, however we will do all that we can over the course of the next few months to minimise any impact and ensure the project continues as smoothly as possible.
We will keep you updated in this newsletter on the latest news with the build.
Children and young people
As part of the selection process, potential architects and contractors were asked to share their plans for engaging with the children and young people. We received some exciting and innovative ways to involve the children and look forward to sharing these ideas in more detail once our architect and contractor has been appointed.