Published: 16:29, 14 September 2021
| Updated: 16:30, 14 September 2021
Pupils are expected to walk through the doors of Sheppey’s new and only special free school in September 2023 – a year later than originally planned.
The secondary school will be built on the former Danley Middle School site in Halfway Road, Halfway, and cater for 120 young people.
Run by The SABDEN Multi-Academy Trust, it will be open to those who have social, emotional and mental health difficulties including those with autism and communications difficulties.
In July 2020, it was announced that the new school was set to open next September, but this has now been pushed back.
Shellina Prendergast, Kent County Council’s (KCC) cabinet member for education and skills, said: “The new secondary free special school, being provided through the Department for Education, is much needed and we are very pleased that work on it is progressing.
“As a result of a number of changes to the project and the difficulties that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused, the anticipated date of opening for the school is September 2023.
“This is dependent on successfully obtaining planning permission, and the successful delivery of the building programme.
“In addition to the planning application, there will be a public consultation in the coming months.”
She added: “Further information about the school, including a name and details of the proposed design, will be released in due course.”
While Sittingbourne has two special educational needs (SEN) schools; Meadowfield School and Aspire School, the need for a special free school on the Island was identified by KCC in previous versions of its rolling Commissioning Plan for Education Provision in Kent.
A bid was submitted to the DfE in October 2018 for funding for it.
KCC was advised in March 2019 the bid was successful and a competition process to find a sponsor for the proposed school would take place.
Cllr Cameron Beart (Con), who represents Queenborough and Halfway on Swale council, has supported calls for more suitable, local SEN provision to meet growing needs on the Island and reduce the demand for out-of-area school transport.
He said: “There is a growing need for SEN provision in Swale, particularly for secondary education. This new school will go some way to providing for that need within our community.
“It will also reduce the demand for out-of-area school transport, which is both costly to the taxpayer but, more importantly, can be incredibly disruptive to the lives of our young people having to travel extended distances to suitable schools.”
He added: “I was so pleased to see that long-fought campaign come to fruition, so when I was made aware of this proposal by KCC in 2018, I immediately wrote to Damian Hinds MP expressing my support.”