New specialist secondary school to open in September for students with autism in Milton Keynes

The move is to meet the growing demand locally

By Sally Murrer
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 5:34 pm

A new secondary school specialising in pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorders is to be provided in Milton Keynes by September.

MK Council is paying to convert the vacant Primary Pupil Referral Unit in Bletchley into a fully-fledged school.

It will cater for students with complex needs, with a “special focus” on ASD, says the council.

Eventually a purpose built specialist school may be needed in MK

The move comes in response to the growing need for secondary school spaces for children with more complex needs.

Council papers state: “There is a continued high demand for special school places through both parental request and mainstream schools calling EHCP reviews for a change of placement when they feel they are unable to meet need.

"Over time this has led to an increasing pressure on special school places and development of places at our existing six special schools."

Local data has shown there is an “increased complexity of need” in the pupils coming forward and places are not always available as soon as they are required.

And it has also revealed the pressure for ASD/complex needs provision specifically at secondary level is “clear and immediate”, the documents state.

The remodelling of the Bletchley premises will cost £280,000 and the work will be complete for the first intake of pupils to start in September this year.

But the council says could only be a short-term solution and longer term a new and larger specialist school could be needed.

All local authorities have a statutory duty to ensure that there are sufficient school places in their area.

The MK council papers warn that if no local action is taken “there will not be sufficient special school places available to meet the increasing need for specialist school provision in Milton Keynes.”

They add: “The decision to revert back to the Romans Field Expansion through building two new classrooms on their site, instead of making the Primary PRU building permanently available to them was approved back in October 2021 and this means the Primary Pupil Referral Unit is available as accommodation for special provision secondary school places, subject to some internal remodelling works to make the spaces fit for their new purpose.”

Labour Councillor Zoe Nolan, who Cabinet Member for Children and Familie is due to take the decision tonight to begin the process for remodelling the Bletchley unit.

She said: “The demand for special school places in Milton Keynes is increasing, and in some cases the needs are getting more and more complex.

“The Labour and Liberal Democrat Progressive Alliance is fully committed to improving the lives of children and young people here in Milton Keynes, and this new school will play an essential role in helping us achieve that.”

Liberal Democrat Councillor Marie Bradburn is Chair of the Council’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee. She said: “I’m thrilled that the Council is set to create even more school places for pupils with complex needs, because all children and young people in Milton Keynes deserve schools that can properly care for and support them.”