Plans are progressing quickly to create a much-needed new school for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, meeting an urgent need for more provision in North Yorkshire.

The Selby district currently lacks a special school, resulting in many vulnerable children and young people undertaking long journeys each day to access suitable school facilities.

The Government has agreed a project for a new special free school in the district, which it has approved into the pre-opening stage. Alongside ourselves it will share the outcome of the feasibility study once it has been fully reviewed and a decision reached. This is anticipated by the end of the calendar year. If the project progresses into procurement, there will be communication promoting public consultation events and an additional opportunity to respond through the planning process.

After a detailed search of the district for a site suitable for the school, a piece of land owned by NYCC was identified adjacent to Hull Road in Osgodby, just outside Selby.

The purpose-built facility will cater for up to 100 pupils, aged from 3 to 19 with a range of special needs and disability.

There are currently 3,574 children in North Yorkshire with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans, which is a 102 per cent increase on the same point in 2015. That number is expected to rise by 24 per cent over the next five years to 4,225 children and young people in 2026. The greatest areas of increase are in pupils identified with communication and interaction needs and children identified with social, emotional and mental health needs.

One parent of a 15-year-old daughter with autism welcomed news that the school was closer to fruition. Angela Ryan expressed her hope that while the school will probably open too late for her daughter to attend, it would spare other parents from the additional stress of having their child attend school some distance away. 

She said: “It would provide so much more piece of mind for parents if their children could be educated in their own community. My daughter attends school in York and since the age of five she has been commuting to York in a taxi, being picked up at 8am and dropped off at 4.10pm. We are lucky to have an amazing taxi company and an escort for the journeys, but if there was an issue with her at school it would be much easier to get to her if she was local. She once had a really bad seizure and both myself and my husband had to leave work and drive into York before we could reach her.

“Being able to educate children with SEND nearer home not only means they are near their families if needed, but it also helps them maintain friendships and put down roots in their local community.”

Parent Carer Voice North Yorkshire, which represents families with children and young people with SEND across the county said: “We are very pleased to hear that the much needed special school in Selby is another step closer for children/young people and their families. 

“To have the opportunity to attend a setting that meets the needs of children and young people with SEND close to home and in their own community is of enormous benefit to them and their families’ lives. 

“We look forward to the ongoing positive momentum moving forward to help make the school a reality for so many that need it.”

In July, the Secretary of State announced an academy sponsor had been approved to run the new school. Wellspring Multi Academy Trust are now working with the Department for Education and ourselves to design the school which they will operate following its opening. Wellspring Multi Academy Trust have a proven track record of running ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools across both the mainstream and specialist sector. 

Cllr Steph Duckett, Member for the Selby Barlby division, said: “This proposed new school will provide the kind of high-quality facilities and education our children in Selby deserve.

“It would mean children with SEND in the district no longer have to start and finish their day travelling long distances to and from places like Harrogate or Knaresborough, or out of the county, for the education they need.

“It will also mean some of our most vulnerable children will have somewhere near their families, friends and local communities where they can thrive and achieve. We are looking forward to this school becoming a reality for families in the area.”