By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
A Margate school has stepped in to help meet a shortfall of special needs places in Thanet.
Holy Trinity and St John’s Church of England Primary School will provide 16 new spaces for children with autism from June 2021. This comes alongside plans to expand specialist provision at a secondary school in 2023.
The St John’s Road school has been rated ‘good’ by Ofsted and will become the first to provide specialist provision in a mainstream setting in the district.
Kent County Council’s (KCC) 16-person education committee universally endorsed the proposal during a virtual public meeting held yesterday.
Holy Trinity school’s headteacher Rob Garratt, said he was “excited” to be working with County Hall’s education department to deliver the project.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “This will be a great resource for the children and families in Thanet.”
Under the £643,000 expansion plans, a former nursery building based at Holy Trinity will be refurbished to include two classrooms, care facilities and small group intervention rooms for those requiring special needs assistance.
The designs are currently being developed in preparation for a planning application, which is expected to be submitted by the end of October.
At Holy Trinity, the number of youngsters attending is expected to increase “incrementally” year on year as the number of Thanet children with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) continues to rise.
A total of 1,369 pupils had an EHCP in Thanet in January 2019, which marks an increase of 12.8% from 2018, according to a KCC report published last week.
Latest figures show that 578 Thanet students, spanning from nursery to Year 6, have an EHCP plan, with 266 of these children registered as having autism.
KCC opposition education spokesman, Cllr Trudy Dean (Lib Dem), questioned whether the 16 places provided would be enough during yesterday’s meeting.
She said: “How is this school going to cope with the demand from Thanet? It seems to be a little bit low for what will be needed.”
Marisa White, KCC education officer for Thanet, said the “gap” would be met with the planned establishment of special needs provision at Garlinge Primary School, in Westfield Road.
She added that “satellite classes” could be created at existing special schools in the area while plans are underway to build a new secondary school in Thanet in September 2023, which will include special needs provision.