The creation of Rotherham’s first specialist education provision for children with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) difficulties has been approved by the Council’s Cabinet.
The new school will be based at the former Dinnington College Campus.
The transformative proposals will also see Newman Upper School – part of Rotherham’s oldest special school – rebuilt. Students from the Upper School will move to the Dinnington Campus, allowing the demolition and high-specification redevelopment of existing, dated buildings.
The plans will improve the education and life chances for local children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in the borough, whilst retaining the Dinnington Campus for educational purposes, which it has been for nearly 100 years.
The Council is working in collaboration with the RNN Group, which currently owns the site, on the plans. The Campus closed earlier this year so that the RNN Group could make best use of its wider estate and invest in its other local sites.
There is a pressing need for specialist SEMH places in Rotherham. A growing number of local children have been assessed as needing SEMH education in the borough but currently young people with these needs are either placed in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), or in schools outside the area.
SEMH issues can include a diagnosis of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attachment issues, a diagnosed mental illness such as depression or anxiety and sometimes includes mental health issues experienced by young people with autism spectrum conditions.
The new specialist SEMH provision will operate as a free school and the Council will shortly begin inviting applications from specialist providers.
Newman School specialises in provision for children with a range of learning difficulties and particularly those with complex medical needs but the school buildings have fallen into disrepair. The transfer of the upper school to Dinnington College will allow the works to be completed at Newman School whilst the remaining pupils continue to attend at the existing site.
Councillor Gordon Watson, Deputy Leader of Rotherham Council and Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “The availability of the Dinnington Campus provides us with a wonderful opportunity to further invest in SEND provision in Rotherham and offer hundreds of local children and young people the opportunity to receive excellent education in an environment much more suited to their needs.
“I am absolutely thrilled these proposals have been approved and that we will soon be in a position to offer specialist mental health provision to young people in Rotherham for the first time and keep a much-loved educational facility in Dinnington open. Not only that, it means we can also fulfil our long-term ambition of redeveloping Newman School and create a modern, purpose-built facility which is more befitting the superb teaching and therapy it provides for children with disabilities and complex needs.”
Jason Austin, Chief Executive Officer and Principal, RNN Group, added: “We are delighted that the main Dinnington Campus buildings are going to be preserved, and used for educational purposes that will benefit the local area, after working closely with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council to find a community solution.”
The proposals are the third phase of SEND Sufficiency Development in Rotherham, a Council programme to increase the number of places available in the borough for children and young people with specialist needs, with £2.5m already invested in creating extra capacity over the last two years.