Published: 05:00, 05 December 2021
A new special primary school - the first of its kind on the Island - is proposed to open on Sheppey in 2025/26, it has been revealed.
The primary school would cater for 50 young people with special educational needs (SEN) and would either be an expansion of an existing school or a standalone “satellite” site.
The plans have been set out in Kent County Council’s (KCC) Commissioning Plan for Education Provision in Kent for 2022 to 2026.
Cllr Cameron Beart (Con), who is a member of the Children’s, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee at KCC, was recently asked to consider and endorse the plan.
Since then, he has written to Shellina Prendergast, KCC’s cabinet member for education and skills, to express his view that an SEN primary school on Sheppey is “welcomed and desperately needed”, but that he would prefer to see it as a satellite site.
Special school provision in Swale is increasingly in need.
Sittingbourne mum Carol Angus was forced to keep her daughter off school for several months as she was unable to afford the £500-a-week taxi fares to a special school in Sevenoaks, 30 miles away, despite KCC's promise to reimburse her.
Cllr Beart has also suggested that KCC “considers strongly” the possibility of bringing the former Halfway Houses Primary School in Queenborough Road back into use to house Sheppey's new primary.
He said: “The site has now been vacant since 2016 and is already owned by the council.
"To reuse it for educational purposes again, especially to deliver much-needed SEN provision, would, in my view, be a far more fitting and cost effective use than simply disposing of the land for more housing.”
The news comes a week after the first images of Sheppey’s proposed new secondary special school were released.
If approved, it will be built on the former Danley Middle School site in Halfway Road, Halfway, and cater for 120 11 to 16-year-olds who have social, emotional and mental health difficulties including those with autism and communication difficulties.
KCC’s commissioning plan sets out that the new secondary school is set to open by 2023/24.
Cllr Beart added: “I’ve also expressed concerns about expanding the proposed secondary school to accommodate primary provision, especially as that expansion room may be needed in the future, either to meet demand for secondary places or to further develop much needed 16+ provision.”