Two new special schools are planned for Huddersfield – one on the site of the former Almondbury Community School which closed two years ago in controversial circumstances.
Kirklees Council has revealed £36 million plans to build two new schools for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
Woodley School and College, based at Lowerhouses, could see students transferred to a new-build school on the site of the former Almondbury Community School, which will demolished.
Another new school will be built on the site of the already-flattened Deighton Centre in Deighton. This will be for the Joseph Norton Academy, currently based at Scissett.
There are currently six special schools in Kirklees for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), social, emotional and mental health (SEMH), complex needs and autism spectrum conditions.
Apart from Woodley and Joseph Norton, the other schools are Castle Hill School in Newsome, Southgate School in Huddersfield, Fairfield School in Batley and Ravenshall School in Dewsbury.
Woodley School & College, housed in a former mill owner’s mansion, was previously known as Longley School.
Demand for future school places is expected to increase over the next two years from 63 to 132 at Joseph Norton Academy and from 12 to 179 at Woodley.
The proposals will go to the council’s Cabinet on Tuesday.
Clr Carole Pattison, Cabinet member for learning, aspiration and communities, said: “Our vision to build two new schools is incredibly ambitious and shows our commitment to families, especially those who are vulnerable.
“Woodley and Joseph Norton provide high standards of care and education and we would like to thank staff and families for providing this support.
“Equally, the facilities at both schools need to be upgraded significantly and their current sites don’t allow for this to happen.
“There is a growing demand for special school places in Kirklees and we must ensure this demand can be met in the future. Relocating these two schools, and providing brand-new facilities at a cost of £36 million, would provide a wonderful opportunity.
“The proposed sites have been carefully considered – amongst many other things, we have looked at access, the potential for growth, highways issues and the scope to provide important outdoor learning. Pupils at the schools come from wide areas, so geographical location was also key.
“Ultimately, the new sites had to provide everything that is needed for children and young people with SEND. The schools have supported this process from the beginning and we all want to do the right thing for our children and families over many years to come.”
The former Almondbury Community School was closed in 2019 despite a campaign to keep it open.
The council expanded the nearby King James’s School to accommodate extra students – at a cost of £5.25 million – and buildings on the Fernside Avenue site will continue to be used by King James’s until next year when a new extension opens.
It is estimated the demolition of the old school and construction of the new one will cost £21 million. This is said to include buying out a contractor from a Public Private Partnership costing between £3 million and £6 million.
It is thought the existing swimming pool and sports hall at Almondbury Community School could be retained for community use.
The plans have provoked a mixed response with parents of children with special needs welcoming the investment, however there is still much anger from parents whose children had to move from Almondbury Community School, many of whom still feel let down.
Moving Joseph Norton from Scissett to Deighton provides a much more central location and there is room to expand the number of places.
The shake-up will also prevent children and young people from having to be educated outside Kirklees at an average placement cost of £58,000, an annual total of £8 million.