Special education school in Luton to expand into The Leagrave Centre

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The expansion will cost £6.5m

A special education school in Luton is set to expand into The Leagrave Centre at a cost of £6.5m.

A small hydrotherapy pool, trampoline room, 16 class bases, specialist rooms and external play areas are included in the scheme, which creates up to 110 new places along with nursery provision.

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Lady Zia Wernher School’s use of the centre in Strangers Way “will ensure the local authority can meet its statutory duty to secure enough school places”, according to a report to the borough council’s executive.

The Leagrave CentreThe Leagrave Centre
The Leagrave Centre

Renovation, adaptations and extensions to the premises will be included in the project, with contingencies made within this budget for rising material costs,” said the report.

“The funding is being allocated by the Department for Education for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision in the town, as well as extra school places.

“While the council can develop short-term expansion options at its current primary special schools, a permanent solution is required from September 2023. The Leagrave Centre can be developed within this time frame.”

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As part of the plans, the council’s executive was being asked to approve an eight-place expansion on the current Lady Zia Wernher School site in Ashcroft Road.

The centre was once an infant school and is now being used as offices for education staff, who face relocation to the Town Hall extension early next year. Conference and training facilities also operate from there.

“Originally it was envisaged the school expansion would use the former children’s centre building at Redgrave Gardens,” explained the report.

“But after consultation, it became clear this site would be unavailable in the timescale required for the development.

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“There were 31 responses to a consultation process from parents and carers, teaching staff at the school, surrounding schools and NHS staff, with 29 voting in favour of the expansion, one against and one abstention.

“Despite a significant increase in special school places, pupil projections indicate a future significant shortfall in capacity in the primary special school sector.

“The projections relate to children with severe learning difficulties and those with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), who cannot be accommodated in resourced provision attached to mainstream schools.

“The Leagrave Centre can be developed to provide high quality special school education provision to meet the complex needs of these pupils,” it added.

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“Using the premises allows the north and west of the town to be closer to special school provision, as all primary special schools are currently in the east.”

The redevelopment will be in two phases, with the first part to be completed by September 2023 and the remainder a year later.

Labour Lewsey councillor Aslam Khan said: “The preference was to move this school on to a second site, rather than establish a new free school.”

Labour Challney councillor Tom Shaw the council should be proud, describing it as “a brilliant result” and “a good solution to a big problem”.

The committee agreed the statutory proposals for the expansion of places both on the Lady Zia Wernher School site and at The Leagrave Centre.