A NEW school for children with special needs will soon be opened near a Somerset sports centre.

Somerset County Council entered into a partnership in June 2022 with NHS Somerset and Homes2Inspire to deliver ten new children’s homes across the county, along and education facilities for children with complex needs.

The former Misterton Church of England Primary School – which closed in September 2022 as part of wider school reforms in the Crewkerne and Ilminster area) – is currently being refurbished to provide the first “therapeutic education” facility under this partnership.

Somerset Council (which replaced the county council in April) has now revealed a second specialist facility will be opened on Corams Lane in Wellington, with a vacant council-owned property being brought back into use.

The property lies within walking distance of Wellington Sports Centre, which is currently being retrofitted using central government funding to make the facility cheaper to heat and run.

The building was formerly used by the Somerset Skills and Learning community interest company (CIC), which currently has offices in Bridgwater, Frome, Shepton Mallet, Taunton and Yeovil.

The facility will allow children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to be educated much closer to home, reducing families’ travel time and the pressure on the council’s school transport budgets.

Kelly Butler, the council’s western project and change manager, said: “Two sites will meet the need for geographical spread, reducing travel time and costs, and will provide critical support for foster carers.

“Detailed planning has been undertaken to ensure the redevelopment of the site is fit for purpose, with much learning based on the model of Hope House, which has two school sites providing the necessary geographical coverage in Surrey.”

It currently costs the council on average £34,500 a year to provide specialist education to a vulnerable child using independent specialists – with the new SEND facilities designed to bring these costs down and reduce the pressure on mainstream schools to provide this level of support.

The Misterton facility is currently expected to reopen to pupils in the winter of 2024, with the refurbishment estimated to cost around £506,000, according to the local authority tendering site BidStats.

The council’s spending on school transport, for both SEND and mainstream pupils, will be closely reviewed in the coming months after declaring a financial emergency in early-November, in light of the rising cost of children’s services and adult social care.

The cost of refurbishing the Wellington site has not yet been made public due to commercial sensitivity – though the council has said a maximum of £1m will be spent, and has stated that building a new SEND school instead would be “significantly more expensive and time-consuming”.

Between eight and 15 pupils will receive support on site at any one time, with the majority expected to be between 12 and 18 years old.