More places are to be made available for special needs children in Surrey, after the county council approved a £19.4 million package to support three new school programmes by 2024 and 2025.

Surrey County Council’s (SCC) cabinet agreed as part of its £140.4 million Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) capital budget.

Aiming to create 132 student places for state-funded specialist schools, SCC is providing new environments or equipment to increase capacity at:

  • Freemantles School, Woking
  • Pond Meadow School, Guildford
  • Philip Southcote School, Addlestone

The three schemes would also support the Council’s delivery of the targeted 5,760 state-maintained specialist places by 2030 and 2031.

Launching a new satellite school at the former Ripley Church of England Primary site, the Council hopes to “meet the immediate demographic need for additional infant age specialist school places”.

Freemantles School will provide accommodation for 54 additional specialist school places for children aged 4 to 7 years-old from September this year.

Pond Meadow School is a specialist academy for pupils aged 2 to 19 years-old with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties. It is currently over-subscribed, albeit by four places. The school will be re-designated, or repurposed, to meet the needs of autistic pupils with co-occurring severe learning difficulties from the 2024 and 2025 academic year.

The new extension on the existing school site will provide space for 51 additional places from September this year. Overall costs for the project have had a 25 per cent increase from the previous indicative budget of £5.88 million, to confirmed costs at £7.34 million.

Rebuilding a hydrotherapy pool at Philip Southcote School is also part of SCC’s funding plans, with the approval of the development in 2022. More than 133 pupils have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) which specifies routine hydrotherapy. 

Surrey’s investment will provide 27 new additional school places this year, as well as replacing worn out spaces for 24 existing places. Overall costs for the project at the school have exceeded the previously approved budget of £10.167 million by 9 per cent to confirmed costs at £11.05 million.

Reasons for the increase include the costs of prolonging the development, such as rising inflation and growing class numbers and practical considerations for the site. 

Investing money into SEND school expansions to provide more places is cheaper and “good value for money” for SCC, than sending kids to independent schools, according to meeting documents.

Savings of around £30,000 are made for each additional state-funded school place and SCC estimates that it is the difference between average costs of independent school places at £53,000 and equivalent state maintained school places at £23,000.

Meeting documents state SCC will borrow the funds to ensure work contracts are awarded, so the special school expansions can be delivered and handed over in August this year and spring next year.

Although significant financial support has gone into these three special schools, there are 29 state-funded special schools in Surrey.