Wigan special needs school move in the spotlight

Hope School
Hope School

The relocation of a Wigan special needs school could take a step forward next week.

Hope School in Marus Bridge faces a move of several miles across to Pemberton as part of wider proposals to improve facilities and create extra places.

Cabinet members will discuss the development, which will require £10m of capital funds, on Thursday.

The reform programme, aimed at improving facilities for youngsters with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and in response to increasing demand across the borough, has been estimated to cost £34m.

According to a report tabled for the cabinet meeting, Hope School “does not have the space required, and it has some condition issues that need to be addressed”. A new facility that will increase the school’s capacity will be built on Montrose Avenue – site of the former Pembec High and Central Park Academy – in the next two years, according to the proposals.

“We intend to develop this site alongside health and adult service partners to ensure it has a more holistic response to the children, young adults and their families that access the school and additional services,” the report reads. “We will also be considering how this can become a much more utilised community asset that will enrich the lives of the community in which it sits.”

Further phases, earmarked to take place within the next five years, could see Rowan Tree Primary in Leigh and Landgate School in Bryn either relocate or have new facilities built at their current locations.

Changes to Willow Grove Primary, Oakfield High and Newbridge Learning Community School are tabled for within the next five to 10 years.

A report from director for children and families James Winterbottom last year said demand for special school or resourced places will increase by 35 per cent by 2036 with the council now facing “real challenges” to meet them. And with budgets under increasing pressure, the rising costs of placing students out of the borough are having a significant impact, he added.

Capital funds already earmarked for school places could cover the initial £10m and section 106 payments from housing developers could be used, a previous council report says.