New school for pupils with complex autism spectrum disorder to be opened in Newham

Acting cabinet member for education, Cllr Zulfiqar Ali (left), and Learning in Harmony Trust chief e

Acting cabinet member for education, Cllr Zulfiqar Ali (left), and Learning in Harmony Trust chief executive officer Gary Wilkie. Picture: Newham Council / Mark Shales - Credit: Archant

A new special school for children and young people with complex autism will be opened in Newham after the proposal secured government funding.

The school, which will cater for 105 pupils, is expected to open in September 2022 and will be built on land provided by the council at a site to be confirmed in autumn.

It will be run by the Learning in Harmony Trust (LiHT), which was chosen because of its excellent track record in running the outstanding-rated John F Kennedy School in Beckton.

The LiHT bid included proposals for the new school to become a centre of excellence, which would tap into existing expertise in Newham and act as a ‘link-maker’ between other schools in the borough to share effective practice.

LiHT chief executive officer Gary Wilkie said, “As a trust, we pride ourselves on our commitment to offering an inclusive, nurturing environment for all our pupils, regardless of their background or ability.

“We look forward to working in partnership with Newham and drawing on the expertise of our brilliant team across our mainstream and special schools to create the fantastic new learning offer that our future pupils at this school deserve.”

In Newham, the number of children with highly complex special educational needs and disabilities has increased, in particular for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

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Primary age pupils identified with complex ASD rose 78 per cent from 2015 to 2018, which is leading to increased demand for ASD provision for secondary age children.

The council estimates it will require 800 additional places for complex or high needs-funded ASD pupils by 2025.

Even with the proposed new school providing 105 more places, 90pc of pupils with complex ASD in Newham will need to be educated in mainstream schools or resource provisions.

Acting cabinet member for education, Cllr Zulfiqar Ali, said: “We know additional provision will be needed in coming years.

“This new school will work in partnership with mainstream, resourced provision and special schools alike and will increase our capacity to educate the minority of pupils who need small, quiet and nurturing environments, which are not necessarily possible in a busy mainstream school.”