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Providing specialist school places is a 'key priority' for Sheppey, say education bosses

By Chloe Holmwood

Building Sheppey's first free school for children with special educational needs has been identified as a "key priority" by education bosses.

Every day, at least 80 youngsters are forced to go to specialist units miles away on the mainland as there is nowhere for them on the Island.

The gap in provision has been highlighted by Kent County Council. It says land has already been set aside for educational use and could be used for what would be Sheppey's first free school.

KCC discussed the new provision at its Children's, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee meeting last week.

In its Commissioning Plan for Education Provision in Kent for 2018-2022, the authority said there is no special school on Sheppey, prompting the daily exodus to the mainland.

To address the gap, the council believes the provision of such a school on the Island for those with behaviour and learning problems is a "key priority".

It said: "As there is no special school on the Isle of Sheppey, significant numbers of pupils often have to travel long distances off the Island to the nearest suitable provision.

"Many of the pupils are being transported to Bower Grove School in Maidstone.

"We believe the scale of the forecast demand for pupils aged 11 to 16 years could be accommodated either through the establishment of a new 120-place free special school with the designation of behaviour and learning on the Isle of Sheppey for pupils aged seven to 16 years, or through an annex of Bower Grove School on the Isle of Sheppey.

"We are looking at how this can be accommodated on land which is already earmarked for education purposes."

A free school is funded by the government but is not run by a council, so it has more control over how it does things and does not have to follow the national curriculum.

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