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Councillors back plans for new school building for pupils with special educational needs

A new building has been approved by county councillors to provide support for pupils with special educational needs at a school near Cannock.

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Littleton Green Community School. Photo: Google

Staffordshire County Council’s planning committee backed the application for the facility at Littleton Green Community School in Colliers Way, Huntington.

The committee’s decision will be referred to the Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities however. Sport England objected to the proposal on the grounds it would lead to the loss of a playing field.

A report to the planning committee said: “Government funding would support the school to develop and increase the provision for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities and in accordance with the aims of that funding, the proposal would increase access to mainstream school placements for children who might otherwise require specialist provision. This enables children to be educated within their local community and reduces the time children would otherwise spend travelling to and from their educational setting.

“An appraisal of off-site and existing on-site accommodation indicates that there are no safe facilities available that would provide a value for money solution over the medium to long-term. Therefore, the recommendation and school’s preference to ensure the safety of pupils and staff is to provide onsite accommodation in a detached building.

“Alternative sites for the proposed building have been considered within the school grounds but the ability to manage pedestrian access, provide for safe external play as well as provide access to the school’s facilities would be best served in the proposed location. The proposals would not include any increase of staff or pupil numbers at the school.”

Headteacher Lynn Thorneycroft spoke in support of the application at the planning committee meeting. She said: “Staffordshire County Council, Littleton Green Community School and Staffordshire University Academies Trust are committed to providing a modern, safe environment for children and young people.

“We have identified a need for a permanent alternative provision in the inclusion system in Staffordshire County Council as our provision is currently temporary. Our provision will increase the local availability of high needs places, which will help reduce the out of area placements, associated transport and residential costs.

“Littleton Green has provided a temporary resource within the main school building for the last five years and this resource space will enable the support to continue for several districts on a permanent basis. It will reduce reliance on poor-quality, inappropriate or more expensive provisions where local provisions can be provided that are cost-effective.

“It will expand good or outstanding specialist provision so that children and young people can be educated closer to home. It will develop an independence within their local community, while enabling pupils to remain in contact with a host or mainstream school.

“Up to 12 pupils between three and 11 with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties who may have been excluded or at risk of permanent exclusion from their mainstream school will have access to this resource provision. Our current provision is for eight pupils and is oversubscribed; we have a waiting list.

“In the Cannock district alone, there have been seven permanent primary exclusions since September and some of these may have been avoided if we had a larger provision. The provision at Littleton Green will have minimal impact on our mainstream school, but will ensure that pupils, families and staff have access to support from the mainstream school site.”

Committee member Councillor Carolyn Trowbridge said: “I think this is a great application. I’m really pleased to see it and it’s very needed.

“I’m really not worried that Sport England have objected. They object when it’s any sort of sports field and I’m convinced if we send this to the Secretary of State they will come back with approval.

“I thank the headteacher for looking at our special needs children and putting all the work in to get this through.”

Fellow committee member Councillor Mike Sutherland said: “The school field where the proposed building would be located is on a section of the field deemed unsuitable by the Football Association for any community sport. If permission is granted for the proposal there is sufficient surplus playing field area for a sports pitch should it be needed.

“I’m fairly comfortable in my mind that objection has been satisfied. And I’m delighted to support it – we want our local children looked after in our local area.”