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New specialist school for North Somerset

11:01am - 24 July 2020

A new 65-place specialist school for North Somerset got the go-ahead from the government this week.

Learn@ Multi Academy Trust (Learn@ MAT) was approved to run the new free school for students aged between five and sixteen who have social, emotional, mental health.  At the moment, children with social, emotional mental health needs do not have their own specialist school in North Somerset.

Free schools are new schools set up by parents, teachers, charities, academy trusts or existing schools in response to demand from the local community. All children attending the new school will have an Education, Health and Care Plan in place to be referred by the local authority SEND team.

The new school will be built in Churchill and feature many specialist facilities and features, such as sensory rooms, therapy spaces and vocational learning areas, as well as lots of outdoor space for play and learning.  Links with Weston College will help older students access a wide range of accredited learning opportunities and also provide excellent training opportunities for staff.

Providing employment for up to 40 staff across teaching, administration, technical support, catering and maintenance, it is anticipated that the school will fully open in 2023.  Learn@ MAT intends to work with North Somerset Council in the interim to provide some provision, hopefully in other settings until the new school is ready.

The next steps will be an outline design for the school, led by the Department for Education agents MACE, followed by a planning application.

Chief Executive Officer of Learn@ MAT Peter Evans said: 

“We’re delighted to be able to offer tailored learning for children in North Somerset who need the opportunity to learn in small groups and through individual education plans. 

“Learn@ MAT has a strong track record in providing tailored learning for children with a variety of complex needs.  We have been providing places for young people from North Somerset for many years and this development will ensure those young people and similar families in the future will be able to access what they need much closer to home. Too often we are turning families away from our Bristol schools as we do not have enough places to offer and these young people deserve to have the opportunity to go to school as close as possible to their own community.

“Many of the young people we see have not had the best start at school for reasons that are not their fault – we aim to turn this around for them and will work closely with local primary, secondary and special schools to support an inclusive educational spectrum of provision across North Somerset. We will keep the local community, parents and everyone interested in our new school up to date with developments through our website and future public consultation meetings.”

Cllr Catherine Gibbons, Executive Member for Children’s Services and Lifelong Learning at North Somerset Council said: “I am delighted we have this opportunity to work with Learn@ MAT to support pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs within North Somerset. This is one of six live SEND projects to create 178 new SEND places overall by September 2023: one project was delivered in September 2019 and another two are in progress to open this September.  

“The Learn@ MAT has an excellent record of supporting children and young people with complex needs and we are thrilled to welcome them to the North Somerset community of schools.”