Bosses at Northumberland County Council have approved the start of a consultation of the scheme to shift Atkinson House Special School from its current base in Seghill.
According to education chiefs a new site is needed to cope with a “steady upward trend” in demand for places for the most vulnerable youngsters, as well as delays to other efforts to boost the number of places.
“Some of the key issues highlighted include the number of children and young people in Northumberland who have been diagnosed with autism,” said Sue Aviston, the county council’s head of school organisation and resources.
“Those with social, emotional and mental health needs have been increasing, with significant additional capacity in the county’s schools being required year on year for the last ten years.
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“Overall this has been a steady upward trend in demand for special school places, which equates to a seven per cent increase every year for the last ten years.”
While Atkinson House currently caters for boys only, the proposed move to the site of the former Richard Coates CE Primary School building, in Thornhill Road, Ponteland, would also allow it to begin accepting female pupils.
According to a report for county councillors, this is needed to support the “growing number of girls who are being assessed as having Social, Emotional and Mental health (SEMH) needs in Northumberland”.
The decision by the local authority’s ruling cabinet means consultation on the scheme has now started. It will end on December 1.
Education bosses hope a final decision will be made in time for the school to re-open at the Ponteland site for the start of the 2022/23 academic year.
Guy Renner-Thompson, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “One of the reasons for this is because the Department for Education free school in Blyth has been delayed slightly because of the Covid-related pressures we’re all used to.
“However, it’s worth pointing out even if that had been on time this is still something we would have been investigating because we have the overarching increase in need for spaces throughout the county.
“The two aren’t necessarily dependent on each other.”