A formal public consultation will take place into a proposal to add 20 places to the roll at Moor Hey School in Lostock Hall, after Lancashire County Council’s cabinet gave the go-ahead to the process.
The school, on Far Croft, is a mathematics and computing specialist college for children aged between four and 16 who have education, health and care plans because of their special needs. If the expansion plan is ultimately approved, the capacity of the facility will increase to 147.
An informal consultation took place earlier this year on the basis of a proposal which would have seen 30 new places created - some of which would have been provided on a ‘satellite’ site elsewhere.
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Papers presented to a recent cabinet meeting at County Hall stated that there had been a limited number of responses to that proposition, all of which had been in agreement with it.
However, the revised proposal for 20 additional places is based upon the construction of new classrooms on the existing school site. Ten of the places will be available when a building which is currently under construction is completed, with the remainder following at a later date.
A full consultation is required because the expansion is deemed to be a “significant change” to the more than 50-year-old school.
Cabinet member for health and wellbeing Michael Green - who also represents the Moss Side and Farington division on the county council - welcomed the proposed increase in pupil numbers at Moor Hey.
“It’s well-regarded within…Central Lancashire, it does some great work and they have been looking to expand for some time - so I’m really pleased to see this coming forward, “ County Cllr Green said.
At the same meeting, cabinet members approved a consultation into the expansion of a special school in Thornton-Cleveleys and gave the green light to the creation of new special needs units within mainstream primary schools in Fleetwood and Skelmersdale and a secondary school in Clitheroe, as part of Lancashire-wide plans to develop a network of such provision across the county. Plans for a new school in Lancaster for children with social, emotional and mental health needs were also set in motion.
Deputy Labour opposition group leader Lorraine Beavers welcomed the developments and said that it was a “wonderful undertaking” by those mainstream schools which had agreed to accommodate special needs facilities.
However, she expressed concern about ongoing moves for schools - particularly Catholic and Church of England schools in Lancashire - to become academies.
“What concerns me is that we…build some form of unit and then [the school] turns into an academy - and all of a sudden it’s then a business.
“We may be financing future academies and I’m not really happy with taxpayers’ money being used for that,” County Cllr Beavers added.
However, cabinet member for education and skills Jayne Rear said that the council was “obliged” to provide the necessary places - whatever the future status of the expanded schools.
Deputy county council leader Alan Vincent added: “We can't penalise the children, because the governors might take a decision at some unspecified future date to take the school into academy [status] - because the bottom line, in any event, is that the schools won’t disappear, they will still continue to educate children…in their respective areas.”
The government wants all schools to become academies by 2030.