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Plans announced for Darlington special needs free school
PLANS for one of the first free schools in the region aimed at children with behavioural and social difficulties have been announced.
Up to 30 primary-age children with special needs could attend the Darlington-based free school from September next year after the proposal received approval from the Department for Education.
Developed by the Education Village Academy Trust, the proposed school will offer specialised provision for pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties from Darlington and the surrounding areas who are struggling to succeed in mainstream primary provision.
The school would join Springfield, Gurney Pease, Haughton and Beaumont Hill academies as part of the trust, but would be based at a separate location in Darlington.
School officials say they are looking at a number of potential sites around the town and hope to announce a preferred location for the free school by the end of next month.
The plans have won the backing of Darlington Borough Council and Darlington MP Jenny Chapman, who welcomed the extra school places for children with special needs.
Existing special educational provision in Darlington has six places for children with behavioural needs, available at the Stephenson Centre, part of the Education Village, in Salters Lane South, meaning some children are forced to leave the borough to find a school that suits their needs.
Sue Richardson, executive principal of the Education Village, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to widen the outstanding provision of special education at the Education Village and to address a real gap in educational provision for some of our most vulnerable children.”
Consultation with parents, children and neighbouring local authorities will start next month to determine the curriculum, admissions process and how the school would meet the specific needs of pupils.
Ms Chapman said: “I’ve spoken to many parents who are frustrated at the difficulties of trying to find school provision or support for their children in the town.
“If this plan means these services can be better provided in Darlington, then that has to be best for children and parents.”
A spokeswoman for Darlington council said: “The proposal is to be welcomed and should reduce the need to send children out of the area for their education.
“We are working closely with the sponsors of the free school to support it.”
For more information or to discuss the free school further, email freeschool@ educationvillage.org.uk
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