One of Somerset’s greatest assets but also greatest challenges is its rural geography. Whilst the vast expanse of countryside provides much beauty and opportunity it also presents some of our biggest obstacles in achieving the ambition that all children can access and achieve within education in their local community, with their peers. Somerset is blessed with some exceptional special schools as well as wonderfully creative mainstream schools who work hard to provide for children with an enormous range of needs. Over the last year though schools and Local Authority Inclusion teams have worked collaboratively on exciting new ways of providing specialist resource and provision in communities where previously this was limited to children having to travel away from communities to get this access.
Satellite schools and enhanced learning provisions are an exciting opportunity for mainstream schools, working alongside the LA, to build their offer to ensure all children within their community have access to the provision that will ensure they have the best possible opportunity to achieve strong outcomes for their journey through life. The first Satellite school – a satellite of Selworthy special school was opened in September 2022 at Court Field’s School in Wellington. The provision has enabled children to transfer through to secondary school with their peers instead of travelling away from the town to access their education. During this academic year there are plans to implement at least a further 4 satellite provisions in key areas of the county – securing further specialist capacity across Somerset but also bringing expertise into schools from our Special Schools.
The Enhanced Learning Provision programme introduced in 2022, created 2 centres within mainstream schools to provide a teaching space and specialist teacher for small groups of children requiring significant adaptations to their curriculum in order to achieve success. Again, this has enabled children to remain with their peers in their community rather travelling away to receive the right provision. During 2023 a further 7 schools joined the programme and will open centres this year with 8 more working with the Inclusion teams of the Local Authority for September 2024 opening. These developments could be one of the most crucial programmes that the Local Authority has run in recent years to secure not only the places children need, but crucially places within the communities that children live and thrive.
As the year progresses we hope to share the lived experiences of some of the children who have benefited from these provision and also to attend some of the SEND Partnership Board listening events to provide an opportunity for parents to learn more about this innovative work.