Site identified for Welwyn Garden City's potential new special educational needs secondary school

Published: 14 May 2019

The Woodside Centre in Welwyn Garden City has been earmarked by Hertfordshire County Council as a potential site for the much-needed new 60-place special school.

Members of the council’s Cabinet Panel agreed on Monday to recommendations proposing a change of site use to facilitate a new school.

The Department for Education (DfE) offered all local authorities the opportunity to bid for new special schools under its special and Alternative Provider Free School Programme. It has approved the county council’s bid progressing to the next stage of the process: a competition to find a suitable Trust to run the school. The county council is expected to make a site available.

The new school, if finally approved, will be delivered by the DfE, which means it would fund any refurbishment or rebuilding work, as well as provide revenue towards the running of the new school.

Formerly the Burnside School, the site is currently occupied by staff from Children’s Services, as well as being shared by three voluntary sector organisations, all of whom are aware of the county council’s investigations into the site as the base for a potential special needs school.

While Children’s Services will be relocated as part of the council’s on-going SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) transformation plans, the Cabinet agreed to take into account the three voluntary services as the project proceeds.

Jenny Coles, Director of Children’s Services at Hertfordshire County Council said: “We are delighted to identify The Woodside Centre as a possible site for a much-needed local school for pupils with complex needs such as autism, severe learning difficulties and mental health conditions.

“Having an additional special secondary school will increase the preferences for parents and will reduce the need for long distance travel for local pupils, as well as the need for placements in the high-cost independent sector.”

The County Council has created over 14,200 additional permanent and temporary primary and secondary school places since 2012.