Massive majority in favour of school expansion


Results revealed this week show overwhelming support for plans to extend a special school.

North Somerset Council launched a five-week consultation in September to get feedback on its proposals to create more school places for children with special education needs by extending specialist school Baytree onto a second site in Clevedon.

Of the 428 responses received 96% were in favour of creating the extra places, and 90% said they supported proposals to do this by expanding into a purpose-built school at a second site.  Land at Brookfield Walk in Clevedon has been identified as a possible location for extra places.

As well as asking respondents to answer questions, the consultation looked for open feedback on the proposals. A significant number of positive comments were received including: “[The school expansion] is fundamentally needed in the interests of fairness and equality and education.

“These children desperately need – and are entitled to have – the same opportunities and resources to meet their needs that every other child in North Somerset enjoys.”

Most of those against the plans said they were in favour of providing additional special needs school places but wanted another location to be used. Concerns were also raised about the loss of green-belt land, green public open spaces and community facilities.

But not all respondents shared these views. One comment said: “Wherever you decide to build the school there are going to be objections. There are plenty of green spaces in Clevedon for use, so fully [sic] support the proposal. All children deserve an education and if Brookfield Walk is the most suitable, then I fully back the expansion.”

Another highlighted the importance of schools being part of a community saying: “Special schools thrive when they are part of a local community, and this site appears to offer that opportunity. Alternative sites on the edges of towns or villages would give an institutional feel which is not appropriate for a school like Baytree.”

Councillor Catherine Gibbons, North Somerset Council’s executive member for children’s services and lifelong learning, said: “We urgently need to increase the number of education places for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

“The proposals outlined in this consultation were very carefully considered to make sure the best possible options were put forward for public discussion and the proposed site was chosen from a short-list of other sites.

“It is fantastic to see such overwhelming support from the majority of people who took the time to respond.”

Next the council will apply for planning permission, with an application expected shortly.The site would provide school places for 65 pupils, with the potential to increase this to 85 places in the future. In total, if approved, the school would expand from 72 places to 120 places, with students able to attend at the second site from the school year starting September 2021. The cost of the expansion is estimated to be £13.5m.

For more information about the consultation, including the responses in full, visit www.n-somerset.gov.uk/baytreeconsultation