Treetops students could be taught in temporary classrooms

By Local Democracy Reporter
Steve Shaw

CHILDREN with special educational needs in Grays could spend the next year learning in a temporary classroom due to a growing demand for school places.

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Treetops Academy in Grays is over-subscribed and having to repurpose rooms to accommodate pupils as the numbers continue to grow.

A short-term fix proposed to Thurrock Council could see children with special educational needs (SEN) who join the school in September 2019 placed in two temporary classrooms for up to 12 months.

Planning documents state: “There has been a significant increase in applications for SEN pupil places in Thurrock in the last year. Currently there are only two SEN providers available within Thurrock local authority.

“Both Treetops Academy and Beacon Hill Academy which cater for pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties are at capacity and can no longer take any pupils with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.”

The council says this over-subscription means that there are currently 12 pupils with SEN needs in the borough who are learning within a “mainstream setting”. As a result there are “significant challenges to overcome to meet the needs of these pupils”.

The proposed classrooms will allow these 12 pupils to join Treetops, with six pupils to each room.

The classrooms would be placed on the edge of the school playground on green belt land and in a report, the council’s planning officers have said the proposal should be approved as it is under “very special circumstances”.

The school has given assurances to the council that the larger number of cars using the site to drop off and pick up pupils will be “adequately managed” and will not result in additional vehicles parking on streets nearby.

A long-term solution to the shortage of places could see Treetops Free School built next to the academy and operate in partnership as a single campus.

If plans for the new school are approved they will result in the creation of an extra 140 places and include six primary school classrooms, eight secondary school classrooms, a library, facilities for art, design, music and science, and a dining room.

A meeting to discuss the temporary classrooms will take place on Thursday, August 15.

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