Go-ahead urged for special school

Fiona Evans

Controversial proposals for a new special school in Bradford are expected to move forward this week.

Bradford Council is looking to build the new community school for 80 children aged from 11 to 19 with emotional, social and behavioural difficulties on land at Bowling Hall Road next to the Flockton House car park.

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The council’s executive will be advised to press ahead with the school when it meets tomorrow.

If councillors back the proposals, the school is expected to open in the academic year of 2012-13.

A report to be considered by members of the executive says that the council has to address a shortfall in provision for pupils with emotional, social and behavioural difficulties.

It says: “This can only effectively be achieved by the establishment of a new dedicated special school specifically catering for their needs as PRU (Pupil Referral Unit) provision is not suitable for longer term placements and Designated Specialist Provision in mainstream schools is not suitable for all such pupils.”

The report warns that if a new maintained special school is not set up, the shortfall in provision cannot be remedied and the requirements of the education watchdog Ofsted could not be met.

But consultation with various people including pupils and professionals prompted 22 responses from residents in the area who were opposed to the proposed location of the school.

Critics objected to the distance between the school and homes in an area which they say is congested at peak times and they fear access would be limited to the row of adjacent properties – and in one case may affect a local business.

There are also fears of a rise in litter and traffic and some residents have said they would “feel more vulnerable”.

Concerns have been raised about the open space that would be lost if the school is built and some people fear there may be a rise in petty crime in the area.

Councillors in the area have suggested the site could be used for a preferred alternative recreational use.

And some people claim that another site, not in the proposed area, should be considered and that a full appraisal of all the sites has not been made.

The Bradford Secondary Heads, private organisation Q2 and Bradford Academy argue that a location on the Bradford Academy site should be considered.

But the report says the site was initially ruled out for several reasons, including the fact that the land is not council owned and would have to be bought or rented – increasing the overall cost.

It also reveals that Bradford Council is currently in default of a recommendation made by Ofsted.

The report says: “In their report dated November 2005, Ofsted stated that ‘as a matter of urgency, the local authority should ensure pupils who have statements of Special Educational Needs for behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, are educated in an appropriate school setting.’”

The report to councillors adds that “further consultation and/or consideration of other sites would cause significant delay in meeting Ofsted’s expectations”.

According to the report to be considered by the executive the neighbourhood forum meeting, pupils, professional groups and 15 of the responses to the consultation supported the council’s bid to extend the provision for students with emotional, social and behavioural needs.

It also says that the impact of pupil presence on the local community “will be limited”, adding that “furthermore, pupils will only be out of school when they are engaging in school organised activities, in which case they would be under the supervision of the school”.