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SEMH special school

We have a duty to ensure there are enough school places within the county. Some children and young people have complex special educational needs that cannot easily be met within a mainstream school setting. We don't currently have enough special school places locally to meet demand so some children attend special schools out of the county or go to independent schools to have their needs met.  

Therefore, we want to establish a new 75-place special school for children and young people with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs in an area within reasonable travelling distance of Gloucester and Cheltenham to open in September 2022. While focusing on SEMH needs, the school will also support children with autism and speech, language and communication needs.  

The need for a new school of this type is underpinned by Gloucestershire’s High Needs Strategy, Joint Strategy For Children with Additional Needs, including SEND 2018-21 and SEND Commissioning Strategy 2019-2024


A public drop-in event will be held on Tuesday 8 September 2020, between 16:00-19:00, at Brockworth Community Centre in Gloucestershire (Court Rd, Brockworth, Gloucester, GL3 4ET).

The event will give people a chance to view the proposed designs for the school before it goes to planning. There will also be representatives from the principal contractors (EG Carters), the architect (Robothams), the sponsor (Learn@Multi Academy Trust) and Gloucestershire County Council available to answer questions and listen to any feedback on the school or designs.

Arrangements will be made to ensure that social distancing requirements can be observed. For those who would prefer to avoid a face to face event, arrangements will be made for the plans to remain on display at Brockworth Community Centre after the event and until 15 September, so that people can drop-in to view the designs and provide feedback. The designs will also be uploaded to this webpage nearer the time.

For more information on the new school check the FAQs below, or contact Nathan Roe (01452 427262 or SEMHschoolproposals@gloucestershire.gov.uk) if there are any further questions.

The proposed site for the school is on Mill Lane, Brockworth, Gloucestershire, GL3 4QF and is approximately five and a half miles from the centre of Gloucester and five miles from the centre of Cheltenham. There is easy access from these two urban centres given the proximity to the M5, the A4174 and the A46. The immediate area is undergoing significant development with 1500 homes planned as part of the Perrybrook development and a resulting investment in community and recreation facilities and the planned establishment of a new primary school.

The site is on land owned by Gloucestershire County Council, currently leased to Henley Bank High School. The proposed site currently has two sports pitches available for, but not much used by, the school and the nearby Sports Foundation. We expect the trust that is appointed to run the new school to make the new sports facilities available for community use outside of school hours.

What are SEMH needs?

Social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) special schools support children and young people with a range of different needs, for example attachment issues, anxiety, depression, an eating disorder or ADHD. Sometimes these needs result from traumatic childhood events, or are a result of underlying medical conditions. There is a wide range of potentially contributing factors.

Why do these children need a specialist school?

Each child is different, but the national picture shows that most children with SEMH needs do not make the same level of academic progress as their peers, and by age 20 only 30 percent have a qualification.

SEMH needs can lead to children becoming withdrawn and isolated or showing challenging behaviour, which can make it difficult for them to succeed in mainstream schools. This SEMH specialist school will help those children who can’t currently reach their full potential in a mainstream school, and support them to return to mainstream education where possible.

It is important that the school is also able to meet co-existing needs which may include autism spectrum condition, speech language and communications needs and specific learning difficulties (as would be expected to be met in mainstream schools).

How will this school be different from a mainstream school?

This school will be much smaller than a mainstream secondary school. There will be 75 pupils in total from Year 7 to Year 11, so class sizes will be a lot smaller (typically around eight in size), and additionally trained staff will be able to give students more tailored and holistic support for their needs. The school will not open with 75 pupils from day one, rather it will build up over time.

There will be a range of qualifications and courses on offer to suit different interests and strengths, including academic and vocational courses. 

Are these children who have been excluded from mainstream schools?

The new school is not alternative provision for pupils who have been excluded from mainstream schools; rather it is a special school for children with complex and significant special educational needs. Pupils will have significant barriers to learning and may have experienced disruption to their educational history, possibly through exclusion as a result of behaviour linked to their needs, and are therefore likely to have gaps in their learning.

Where will the school be built?

The proposed site for the school is on Mill Lane in Brockworth. The site is on land owned by Gloucestershire County Council, currently leased to Henley Bank High School.

The proposed site currently has two sports pitches available for, but not much used by, the school and the nearby Sports Foundation. We expect the trust that is appointed to run the new school to make the new sports facilities available for community use outside of school hours.

Who will run the school?

The school is being established as a special free school. This means that it will be an academy. In March 2020 the Regional Schools Commissioner approved our recommendation that Learn@ Multi Academy Trust be appointed. This appointment has been made based on applications received from multi-academy trusts (MATs) as part of a nationally run free school presumption competition.

Who are Learn@ MAT?

Learn@ MAT is a small special school and Alternative Provision focussed trust, based in Bristol, that has extensive experience in supporting children and young people with SEMH needs, as well as SLCN and autism, and in delivering high quality inclusive education in a nurturing environment, enabling pupils to achieve the best possible outcomes and equip them for further education, training and employment. We are delighted that this trust will be joining us in Gloucestershire as partners in achieving the best possible outcomes for some of our most vulnerable residents, and they have an excellent track record. 

Will this affect parking and traffic in the area?

As this will be a small school of up to 75 pupils, there should be minimal impact on parking and traffic. The majority of children and young people who attend the school will travel to and from it using council-arranged taxis and minibuses. The design of the site will include staff parking and provision for taxis and mini buses to enter the grounds at drop off and pick up times to avoid road side drop off and pick ups. It is critical to get the drop off and pick up arrangements in special schools right and this aspect of the school’s operation will be very carefully planned so that, for example, cars are not queuing on to Mill Lane at the start and end of the school day.

There are confirmed plans, linked to the housing development, to widen Mill Lane. This will have been completed well before the school is due to open.

The start and finish times of the school are planned to avoid those of the nearby secondary and primary schools in order to relieve traffic congestion.

Why does this school only go up to age 16?

There is very positive data to show that the vast majority of children successfully transfer from SEMH special schools to mainstream further education at the end of Year 11. In recent years high numbers of students at the existing SEMH school in Gloucestershire, The Peak Academy, went on to mainstream education at 16, and Learn@ MAT similarly has an impressive track record in this regard.

Further education colleges work with SEMH schools to provide students with regular taster days in Year 11 so they become familiar with a mainstream school environment, so their transition is well planned. Some colleges have also developed longer transitions for students up to a year before they start their course.

Vocational options include apprenticeships and supported internships and there is sufficient specialist SEMH provision available at 16 if students aren’t yet ready to join mainstream education.

How will the design, build and ongoing running of the school support the reduction in  carbon emissions?

In September 2019 a motion calling for all new public buildings and developments in Gloucestershire to be carbon neutral was unanimously backed by county councilors. The county council is striving to become carbon neutral by 2030 and is identifying measures to deliver an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the whole county by the same date.

The design and build of the new school will have strong green credentials and a specialist consultant will be engaged to inform decisions about the range of different approaches that can be taken. The options will need to take into consideration what is appropriate for the site in question, the purpose and usage of the building and what is cost effective, taking into account ongoing maintenance and running costs.

How will any safety concerns be addressed?

The safety of the pupils is of paramount importance and will be for the trust that runs the school. Therefore, the intention is to provide a site that has a secure physical boundary and in which entry to and exit from the site is carefully controlled. This will allow the children and young people to be able to benefit from the wider site as a whole, in the knowledge that they are kept safe and not able to leave the school site unaccompanied.

Will the school offer before and after school activities and will the term times be the same as other schools?

We would wish this group of vulnerable learners to experience the same opportunities at school as others so we would expect the trust that runs the school to look to arrange after and before school clubs typical to those found in most schools, but this can be difficult to arrange when children travel to school by local authority arranged transport. Whilst it will be for the academy to set its own term dates, we anticipate they will likely follow the same pattern as the majority of other schools and academies in Gloucestershire. 

How will local people be involved as the project develops?

The academy trust and the design team will run a number of drop in information sessions as the project develops, providing regular updates through whatever medium the local community, the design team and the trust agree would be preferred. Through the drop in information sessions it is envisaged that the local community will learn more about how the school will operate and their approach to meeting the needs of this group of vulnerable learners. There will also be an opportunity for residents to look at plans for the school building and site and to provide comment. We are keeping the parish council up to date and updated them most recently in June 2020. The county council will liaise with the parish council in order to determine how best to approach wider community engagement, especially in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Now architects are appointed detailed plans will be drawn up and shared with local residents ahead of the planning application being made in September 2020. We are not expecting the school to admit its first pupils until 2022, so that there is time for these necessary and important activities to be undertaken and formal representations can be made as part of the planning application process.

If planning permission is approved, when will construction start on site?

With a planning application being submitted in September 2020 it is anticipated that construction may commence in March 2021 and therefore the proposed site secured, and unavailable for use, from that time.

Who will be building the school?

A local family run Gloucester firm EG Carter has been appointed as the principal contractor.

Who can I contact if I would like to ask a question about this proposal?

Any comments or questions can be raised by e-mailing: SEMHschoolproposals@gloucestershire.gov.uk

(Last updated June 2020)



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