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Education Monmouthshire South Wales

Concerns over growing number of children with ‘complex additional learning needs’

INCREASING numbers of children with “complex additional learning needs” is a “real risk” to a council, members have been told. 

Pupils who require additional support in Monmouthshire have attended Specialist Resource Bases at one of three primary and two secondary schools and the county council has been strengthening that provision so less children need to attend out of county placements, possibly anywhere in the country. 

Dr Morwenna Wagstaff, the council’s head of inclusion, said the council is expanding its provision as the unit that had been based at Deri View Primary School, in Abergavenny, has become part of the 3-19 King Henry VIII School.  

It has doubled its capacity for primary age learners to 16 and is also providing a third unit for those aged 11 and over with capacity for 55 pupils. 

The units, which are staffed by the council which also allocates places, are intended to be a part of their host school and the others are at Monmouth and Caldicot comprehensives as well as Overmonnow Primary in Monmouth and Chepstow’s Pembroke Primary. 

Capacity for the base at Monmouth Comprehensive is currently 55 but it has had 67 pupils on roll since September, with the same number expected this coming September. Dr Wagstaff said the new Abergavenny base could relieve some of that pressure though no pupils currently attending Monmouth would be required to switch schools. 

At Pembroke Primary, where an extra class has been added, there is capacity for 24 pupils but it currently has 25 on roll and is expected to increase to 29 in September. 

Current forecasting predicts 20 further places will be required at primaries in the next two to three years as well as places for children and young people with more profound additional learning needs currently provided for by out of county special schools and independent special schools. 

But Dr Wagstaff warned: “A real risk for us is the number of children and young people with complex additional learning needs is increasing placing greater demand in Monmouthshire and nationally and regionally in south east Wales the special schools we have previously relied on are at full capacity. The alternative is independent provision that is very costly.” 

The council’s report has made recommendation on addressing inconsistencies across the resource bases and greater collaboration and sharing of good practice between them and the need for a partnership agreement between host schools and council as there is no formal “contract” in place. 

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It has also identified the need for a revised criteria for admissions at primary and secondary, developed with clarity with those leading the basis and educational psychologists.