Bourne’s Willoughby School could see its pupil numbers grow by more than 50 per cent if plans to reform special needs education across Lincolnshire go ahead.
James Husband, head teacher at Willoughby School which currently caters for children aged two to 19 with moderate to severe learning difficulties, has backed a new model for special education unveiled by Lincolnshire County Council.
Under the plans announced last month, all of the county’s 20 special schools would be able to take all SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) pupils, regardles of classification or disability.
Willoughby School’s support for the plans, confirmed after a meeting with parents and carers in Bourne on February 1, would see its pupil intake rise from its current figure of 79 to a maximum of 135, possibly as early as September 2021.
Mr Husbands said: “I am delighted that Willoughby School is included as part of this SEND strategy as demand for special school places in Bourne and Lincolnshire is extremely high.
“Under the proposals, young people in Lincolnshire who require a special school place will be able to attend their local special school whereas currently only 30 per cent of SEND pupils attend their nearest school.
Enabling all pupils to attend their nearest special school will maintain high-quality educational provision and provide opportunities for the creation of a localised special needs communityJames Husband, head teacher at Willoughby School, Bourne
“Willoughby School prides itself on meeting the specialist needs of the community local to Bourne, including The Deepings, Stamford and Sleaford.
“As a result of these proposals, the all-need, community provision and ethos of Willoughby School will be replicated
Mr Husbands revealed that “significant capital investment” at Willoughby School would result in “additional classrooms and specialist facilities built to meet the growing demand for special school places”.
He said: “Enhancing the education, care and support of children and young people with additional needs is at the heart of this project.
“Enabling all pupils to attend their nearest special school will maintain high-quality educational provision and provide opportunities for the creation of a localised special needs community.”
Under the SEND plans, Willoughby School would also become part of a “specialist school satellite” structure in south-west Lincolnshire, along with a school and sports college both based in Grantham.
Willoughby School would also be able to establish stronger ties with mainstream schools, including “next door neighbour” Bourne Grammar School, so it can give extra support to SEND pupils in mainstream school.
Andrew Hancy, Willoughby School’s chairman of governors, said: “After an open and honest discussion, parents and carers of children at Willoughby School were overwhelmingly in favour of these proposals.
“They are enthused about the future direction of the school under the strategy and the benefits this will bring to both our current and future pupils.
“Over the last few years, our head teacher (Mr Husbands) has built on the strengths of Willoughby School and has already ensured that we are able to meet the needs of children with wide-ranging educational and complex health needs.
“We are also proud of our collaborative working relationships with local mainstream schools and, therefore, we feel that we are already well-established to support the future vision of ‘All Needs, All Age’ provision within the local community.”