Former school for children with complex needs to be given new lease of life

A mothballed pupil referral unit in Rotherham, closed after pupils transferred to another school, is set to reopen providing school places for children and young people with special educational needs.

Cabinet members are set to agree plans to breathe new life into the Rowan Centre by opening it up for pupils with special educational needs, boosting the council’s offer for local families.

The centre, based in Rawmarsh, was closed after students and staff transferred to the new Elements Academy on the old college site at Dinnington – a special school opened for local pupils with social, emotional, and mental health needs.

Rotherham Council only decided to close the pupil referral centre after it stopped being used as a service.

With the building sitting empty and costing money to run, the guidance was followed to officially close it via the Department for Education (DofE) so the council could then offer it out for further use.

A local education provider has submitted a proposal to use the site to create high quality educational provision for young people aged 14-19, this will free up more special school places for younger children too.

In June, Cabinet approved Rotherham’s Schools Accessibility Strategy, which can now be used to make sure school sites are accessible for children and young people with special educational needs. 

Cabinet members will next month be asked to approve the use of the Rowan Centre for special educational needs placements.

If approved, this will create additional Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) places in Rotherham, giving more young people aged 14-19 the opportunity to access high quality educational provision.

It is anticipated that the first group of pupils could even be in situ in the refurbished site by September, the start of the new school year.

Councillor Victoria Cusworth, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “I am really pleased that plans are being put forward to reopen the Rowan Centre, creating much needed additional special educational needs placements.

“It is crucial that all students receive the high-quality education they deserve, and that this is delivered in the right environment to suit their individual needs. Here in Rotherham a fifth of our pupils are registered as having special educational needs, so it is vital we make sure they are catered for so they can live their best lives and reach their full potential. We are committed to giving every child and young person the best start in life.”

All local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that education provision meets the needs of children and young people with SEND in their areas. In Rotherham, 20.4 per cent of pupils have a statutory SEND plan or are receiving SEND support. This compares to an average of 18.2 per cent across similar councils in England.

This proposal comes as a new Local Offer website has been launched for families in Rotherham with a child or young person with SEND. The website includes help, advice, and information about the services available for children and young people and has been created with accessibility in mind. Features include an epilepsy safe mode, visually impaired mode, cognitive disability mode, ADHD friendly mode and a blindness mode.

The Cabinet will decide on the future of the Rowan Centre at a meeting to be held on Monday, 7 August. Papers for this can be found here: Agenda for Cabinet on Monday 7 August 2023

Published: 25th July 2023