£1m investment for Luton school to support visually impaired and autistic pupils

A £1m investment in two specialist units has been agreed for a Luton school to cater for pupils with sight difficulties and autism.

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 1:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 1:54 pm

Cardinal Newman Catholic School already has a strong reputation for educating pupils with special educational needs and disability (SEND), according to a report to the borough council's executive.

One unit will cater for eight pupils with a visual impairment, and the other for eight with autistic spectrum continuum (ASC), said the report.

"Admission to the specialist resourced provision will be managed by the local authority’s special educational needs assessment team (SENAT) through the SEND provisions panel, and both units will be a town wide facility.

Cardinal Newman Catholic School
Cardinal Newman Catholic School

"The premises will be built in a detached block on the Warden Hill Road site, which is being renovated using funds from the SEND provisions capital grant.

"Each unit will be separate with its own facilities and staffing," added the report.

"A funding agreement will need to be signed by the academy trust, before works start, to protect the council’s investment."

There were 40 responses to a SEND place planning consultation "with key stakeholders, such as parents, school staff, educational and planning statutory consultees", which took place in November and December 2019.

"The feedback showed a support for more specialised units within Luton to ensure pupils stay locally for this educational provision.

"The comments also referred to extreme strain on the three special schools to support a wide range of SEND in Luton and that something is needed to reduce this pressure."

Labour Lewsey councillor Aslam Khan told the executive: "The local authority has planned new specialist resource provision for children with SEND at Cardinal Newman Catholic School.

"This would include provision for pupils with vision impairment and children with autism, all with education health and care plans (EHCP)," he said.

"The project is funded by the SEND provision capital fund as there was £1m committed to cover the expense. Luton's total allocation was £2.2m from April 2018 to April 2021.

"The revenue funding has been built into next year's budget in line with the (education) High Needs funding operational guide for 2021/22.

"High Needs top-up funding per pupil has been agreed at schools forum and the scheme is in line with Luton's health strategy to develop quality local provision in which parents have confidence.

"This helps keep children local and reduces the out of borough spend."

The revenue funding requirement for the two new units is £161,000, which was part of the High Needs budgets for 2021/22 and was included in the council's annual budget report.

The development became a key action for Luton’s SEND service after the children and young people with SEND place planning consultation, explained the report to councillors.

"Failing to provide these places would mean pupils with EHCPs who have visual impairment or ASC may need to go to out of the borough to independent special schools increasing costs considerably for the council."

The executive unanimously approved the project, which is subject to planning permission being granted.