Rotherham Council’s Cabinet is to consider transformative proposals to improve the education and life chances for hundreds of children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
Working in collaboration with the RNN Group, if approved, the plans would see the Council acquire part of the Dinnington College Campus, which was recently closed so that the RNN Group can make best use of its estate and invest in its other local sites.
Investing in the Dinnington Campus would allow the council to use an existing historic education site to develop a new and innovative school which would specialise in providing education for children and young people with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) difficulties
It’s also recommended that Newman Upper School – part of Rotherham’s oldest special school - would move to the Dinnington Campus, allowing the demolition and high-specification rebuild of existing, dated buildings on the Newman site.
SEMH issues can include a diagnosis of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attachment issues, a diagnosed mental illness such as depression or anxiety and sometimes includes mental health issues experienced by young people with autism spectrum conditions.
In the last 18 months, 290 children have been assessed as needing SEMH education in Rotherham but currently young people with these needs are placed in Pupil Referral Units (PRU), or outside of Rotherham.
If the plans are approved, the new specialist SEMH provision would operate as a free school, with the Council inviting applications from specialist providers.
Councillor Gordon Watson, Deputy Leader of Rotherham Council and Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “Since 2018, the Council has invested £2.5m in creating more than 200 additional school places for children with SEND in Rotherham. But demand, especially for specialist mental health provision, continues to grow.
“The availability of the Dinnington Campus provides us with a game changing opportunity to consolidate our existing PRU provision, provide specialist mental health provision to young people in Rotherham for the first time and fulfil our long term aim of redeveloping Newman School with new purpose built facilities more befitting the superb teaching and therapy it provides for children with disabilities and complex needs.”
Newman School specialises in provision for children with a range of learning difficulties and particularly those with complex medical needs but the school buildings have fallen into disrepair. The transfer of the upper school to Dinnington College will allow the works to be completed at Newman school whilst the remaining pupils continue to attend at the existing site.
Paul Silvester, Head Teacher at Newman School, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the children and young people at Newman School. The changes that are being proposed will help improve the overall learning experience for our pupils and the fabric of the school as a whole.”
If approved, the scheme would see education provision retained at the Dinnington Campus site, which has been a cherished community asset in the town since the 1920s.
Dave Smith, Chair of Dinnington St John’s Town Council, said: “We are pleased that an asset which has been part of the community for around 100 years can still be used for education in the area.
“Many people across Rotherham have been educated at the site through the decades and some students that have passed through the gates may have grandparents or even great grandparents that were taught at the college site as well. It’s great to see that the heritage of the town is being protected for future generations.”
The SEND Sufficiency Phase Three report will be considered by the Council’s Cabinet on Monday 23rd November.