Portakabin has been appointed by the Department for Education (DfE) as the main contractor on plans for a new Special Education Needs (SEN) school on a site in Easton. 

Following the online public consultation on Monday 23 November, we have collated some questions and answers for you to review below.

 

How was the current site chosen?

As part of its SEND Sufficiency Strategy, Norfolk County Council identified a significant need in the area for additional SEND places.  As with any school development, a site search was completed which identified a number of sites in the ownership of Easton College, including the current site, which has already been earmarked for development locally.

Is this site not allocated for housing development?

The proposed school site forms part of the wider site allocation in the South Norfolk Local Plan relating to Easton (reference EAS1) identified for major housing growth with related services and infrastructure. The approved development masterplan for this Easton Growth Village development has delivered these land-use requirements without recourse to the land now identified for the proposed SEN school. Hence, the opportunity exists to utilise this land for another purpose and a school development for which there is identified need.

Is there a need for a SEND school in this location?

The school is for children whose needs are currently not being well met from the Norfolk system and to manage the current and forecast demand for places in our existing special schools. The Education Health and Care assessments of these children identify that, despite examples of good, inclusive practice in mainstream schools, arrangement of provision in a special school is most appropriate to meet the complexity of need identified and to achieve their outcomes.

The new school will not only address current and forecast capacity and cost issues, it will enable Norfolk County Council to recalibrate its system through a “domino” effect whereby children across a range of existing schools can transfer into a school closer to their home.  

The new school will join a fraternity of good/outstanding special schools and its location will enhance access to specialist facilities and support to local mainstream schools. Its proximity to Easton College presents dynamic opportunities for partnership to develop high quality 16-25 pathways for Norfolk’s most complex learners.

When will the school be open?

The school is currently programmed to open in January 2023, although every effort will be made to bring that forward to September 2022. Construction work on the formation of the new site access is programmed to start in June 2021.

Who will be able to attend?

The school will provide an all-through education for pupils aged between 4-19 years. The school will be for learners with a primary need of cognition and learning, ranging from moderate to severe and, in some cases, profound and multiple.

How can I apply for a place for my child?

Places for the school will be allocated in line with Local Authority duties to name a school in a child’s Education Health Care Plan which incorporates the parental right to request.

Who is going to operate the school?

The school will be run by The Bridge Trust, which currently runs four schools, three of which are special schools with the other being a mainstream primary. Two of the Trust’s schools are rated Outstanding by Ofsted, with the other two to be inspected.

Will the school open with all year groups?

The school will open in the first year with 6 nursery and 56 pupils in Years 1-6 (Key Stages 1 & 2). The school is projected to be at full capacity within 5 years of opening.

What will the capacity of the school be?

The school will be a co-educational school catering for 170 pupils aged between 4-19 years old. At full capacity, it is projected to have 6 nursery, 74 primary, 70 secondary and 30 sixth-form pupils.

How many staff will the school need?

When the school is full in year 5 of operation, there will be approximately 102 FTE (full-time equivalent staff) of which 78 will be teaching and teaching support staff. In the first year of opening, the overall staff intake is expected to be 42 FTE (including 30 teaching and teaching support staff).

What safeguarding measures have been included in the school?

The building design has taken safeguarding into account, for example primary and secondary pupils have their own play spaces and there are appropriate fence heights for pupils. In addition, the school will follow all usual safeguarding procedures, including DBS checks for all staff and safer recruitment practices.

Will any facilities be made for local community use?

The school will actively engage with the local community in order to maximise the use of its facilities (which includes a main hall) out of school hours. This would also include the use of the MUGA during daylight hours.

How will drop-off/pick-up be managed?

The majority of children at special schools arrive at school by minibus or taxi, with some dropped off by their parents.  Unlike mainstream schools, arrival and drop off are a highly managed operation to ensure all the children arrive and leave the school safely.  All the vehicles are able to come into the school site during this time and there is no traffic waiting on the highway.

The planning application for the school will provide a full assessment of traffic impact and will also provide for a car park management plan and school travel plan.

How many visitor parking spaces will there be?

The car park is sized according to the operational needs of the school and contains 141 spaces (including accessible bays). The precise breakdown between staff and visitor spaces will be determined according to future trip projection data. The car park has also been designed to enable on-site drop-off/pick-up movements, including via school mini-bus and taxi.

How will the school be accessed?

A new dedicated means of access is proposed to be formed off Bawburgh Road and directly to the north of Deer Park House.

Are there any off-site highway improvements proposed?

Improvements will be undertaken to Bawburgh Road in the form of road widening and the formation of a new pedestrian footway connecting into the existing footway at the southern end of the village (Easton).  These works are being programmed to take account of the wider road and pedestrian infrastructure improvements proposed by Persimmon in respect of its own housing development which would further improve connectivity to the school site.

What measures are being taken to protect the wildlife and biodiversity of the site?

Initial ecology surveys have been undertaken on the site with baseline information collected to establish the nature and extent of any habitats on the site. This survey work complements other survey work undertaken in the area. Where appropriate, mitigation measures will be implemented to ensure that any identified habitats are protected. Our plans will also provide for ecological enhancement with pupils encouraged to positively interact with the local environment through the introduction of outdoor learning areas and sensory gardens.

Will there be any tree loss?

The existing woodland plantation areas forming the principal northern and eastern boundaries of the proposed school site will be retained. There will be some level of tree loss needed to facilitate the construction of the proposed site access and wider road improvement works, although this is being kept to a minimum.

How long will it take to build the school development?

Construction works on the school development (as distinct from the site access) is currently programmed to commence in November 2021 and prior to a planned opening of the school in January 2023 (which may be brought forward to September 2022 according to progress).

How will the construction impacts of the development be managed?

Portakabin has been working on Government procured school developments for many years and is highly experienced in managing the construction impacts of development to minimise disruption to the surrounding area. A Construction Management Plan will need to be agreed with Norfolk County Council to outline the precise measures that will be taken in this respect. As the new school building will be largely manufactured off-site (before on-site assembly), the level of construction traffic on the surrounding roads will be considerably less than would be the case with a traditional school build.

Will the school development prejudice any future plans to improve the adjoining gymnastic club facilities.

No. Arrangements were put in place as part of the land transfer to ensure that any future plans will not be impacted by the school, but equally the access to the school will not be affected. Easton College has been fully engaged on the school proposal.

When are you proposing to submit a planning application for the school?

The application is being targeted for submission on 17 December 2020. The application will be submitted to Norfolk County Council (as education and highway authorities for the area). South Norfolk Council will be consulted on the application as local planning authority.

Will the local community have an opportunity to comment on the application and where will we be able to view the documentation?

Yes. Norfolk County Council will be undertaking its own statutory consultation and neighbourhood notification procedures once the application has been registered as valid. The local community will have the opportunity to respond directly to the Council as part of this consultation. The application will be able to be viewed on the Council’s website and via the planning application search function. The school project team will also be happy to be contacted during this period.

Can the local roads cope with the resultant traffic impacts?

The overall traffic impacts of the proposed development will be the subject of a standard scope Transportation Assessment which will form part of the school planning application and a Framework School Travel Plan will also be prepared outlining the measures aimed at encouraging the use of more sustainable means of transport. The local community will continue to be engaged on these aspects of the proposed development throughout the planning process. Discussions are ongoing with the Highway Authority and Persimmon to ensure a coordinated approach to the provision of road and pedestrian/cycle infrastructure improvements in the area.

You can view the presentation from the webinar here

If you would like to share any feedback, please do so here.