Welwyn Garden City’s new special free school ‘won’t meet demand’ with 60-pupil capacity

A new special free school in Welwyn Garden City will have 60 places.

A new special free school in Welwyn Garden City will have 60 places. - Credit: Archant

Many parents have been crying out for the planned new special free school in Welwyn Garden City – but it won’t meet demand, a Welwyn Hatfield mother says.

Hertfordshire County Council has confirmed to the WHT that the new school earmarked for WGC will have a capacity of 60 pupils.

Co-founder of charity SPACE, Karen Spencer, who has a son with autism, said: “It is nowhere near going to meet demand if there’s only 60 places... but it helps, it’s a start.”

Karen – whose charity supports families and young people with autism, ADHD and related conditions – said there are many children with special needs in the borough who are “struggling in mainstream schools at the moment, but have nowhere else to go”.

Others have to travel out of the county, including to Cambridge and Berkhamstead, to attend independent specialist schools – with some parents travelling more than four hours each day.

Karen said: “(The new school) is really important, we already have a SLD and MLD school in WGC and Hatfield, but the one missing is really for children on the autism spectrum and related conditions that don’t have learning disabilities.

“Schools are struggling to cater for demand. The special schools are full already, so (they go to) mainstream schools and children are waiting for places.

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“The reality is there is a gap for children who have got a learning disability.”

• READ MORE: New special free school to be opened in Welwyn Garden CityThe Department for Education (DfE) last month announced 37 new special free schools would be opened across the UK, including four in the East of England.

It is not yet known where the WGC school will be located.

A county council spokesperson told WHT this week: “We are currently assessing potential sites for the proposed new special school in WGC and carrying out due diligence.

“We will keep residents informed as soon as we have an update.”

Karen said people often do not understand the difficulties of a child not fitting into the mainstream environment.

She said: “When they’re not in the SEND world, they think a lot of parents are happy with children in mainstream schools but they’re actually not.

“They’re there because they have to get an education and there isn’t anywhere else for these children to go.”