Basildon specialist school to be rebuilt in face of rising numbers of expelled children

A specialist school is to be rebuilt to help accommodate rocketing numbers of children expelled from school.

Essex County Council is set to demolish the existing pupil referral unit at the Fairview Centre in Basildon and replace it with brand new teaching accommodation and facilities for 100 pupils.

It says the new building is required to replace the current classrooms and facilities which are no longer fit for purpose.

A statement as part of decision papers to be discussed on Tuesday May 24 said: The new building will provide pupils with greater opportunity to gain further skills and certification, such as BTEC, thus enabling them greater opportunities upon leaving education.

“Current and future pupils attending the school will benefit from purpose-built accommodation that caters for their needs and enables the pupil referral unit to continue teaching the pupils as well as preparing them for their adult life beyond statutory education.”

The council admits that consistently high number of pupils with SEND cannot have their needs met in Essex schools and are subsequently educated in independent schools or outside of the county at higher cost.

It says that by enhancing the facilities at Fairview, it is able to give parents greater confidence that needs can be met locally and reduce appeals to the SEN tribunal for places in the independent sector.

In addition the need has grown sharply – since 2015 there has been a significant year on year increase in pressure on existing capacity at Essex pupil referral units, as a result of rising permanent exclusions.

There were 50 permanent exclusions in 2014/15 which increased to 161 in 2019/20. There was at the same time, a rise in the number of children and young people who required provision due to their medical or mental health needs.

A statement added: “A pupil referral unit estate that is fit for purpose is a fundamental requirement to delivering and developing the core service offer both statutory and non-statutory as well as enabling the service to develop innovation.

“The responsibilities upon local authorities to provide appropriate education for pupils unable to attend school due to behaviour and ill health have increased considerably over the last fifteen years.

“As a result, the provision made by Essex pupil referral units in order to fulfil that duty has moved from being part-time tuition delivered, for many pupils, in the field, to being centre based and full-time.

“Recent Ofsted inspections of Essex pupil referral units have been successful but have highlighted the lack of sufficient space at some centres as having an impact upon pupil’s attendance, safety and turnover.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter