Plans Brought Forward for New Autism Learning Centre

A NEW 30-place learning centre for children with autism in Reading could open next year if plans are given the go-ahead.

Members of Reading Borough Council’s Policy Committee are being asked to approve the construction of a new facility at Blessed Hugh Faringdon Catholic School in Southcote.

The autistic spectrum provision, called The Base, would provide double the number or pupil places provided by the existing facility at the school. The current modular classroom block dating back to the 1990s has exceeded its useful life and would be demolished to make way for the new centre, along with the caretaker house.

The Council has specific duties relating to children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and currently has a shortage of special school settings within the borough for children who are on the autistic spectrum. This results in a number of pupils having to travel to special schools outside the borough and demand is growing.

The new facility at Blessed Hugh Faringdon would contribute towards meeting the demand for specialist places within a mainstream school in the borough. This will not only benefit the children and their families but save the Council money in the long term.

An open evening was held at the school to display and share plans for the new building and received widespread support. Planning permission already exists and a contractor has been selected to carry out the £1.9m project.

The Council has also entered into an agreement with the school and the Diocese of Portsmouth guaranteeing use of the centre by the local authority should the school become an academy in the future.

Now, final approval is sought to go ahead with the development with the aim of it opening for use in September 2019.

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Lead Councillor for Education, visited the school last week and spoke to staff at the unit about the plans.

Cllr Pearce said:

“The Base will provide a modern new teaching environment for children with autism and will help meet the growing demand for secondary SEND places.

“A number of children currently have to travel outside the borough which can be inconvenient for families and can result in higher placement and travel costs for the Council.

“This new facility will benefit pupils and their families who will be able to build up friendships and support from other local families as well as saving Reading tax payers money in the long term.”

The full committee report can be found at:

David Millward

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