New “transformational” facilities for children with educational and emotional needs are to be set up at four schools in North Somerset, writes John Wimperis.

North Somerset Council’s executive passed a £3.045m investment to create three “resource bases” for 30-36 children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) at schools in the district, and a nurture group with 10 places for children with social or emotional needs.

The council’s executive member for children’s services, families, and lifelong learning Catherine Gibbons said: “This is part of our strategy overall to increase SEND capacity in mainstream schools which will see further facilities over the coming years across 13 more schools.”

The investment will set up speech and language-focussed resource bases at Hannah More Infants and Grove Junior Schools in Nailsea, and Hans Price Academy in Weston-super-Mare, and a resource base covering autism spectrum with anxiety at Worle School.

They will be open to all pupils with an “educational, health and care plan,” regardless of whether they live nearby.

A nurture group, which aims to provide in-school support to pupils with social or emotional needs for a variety of reasons, will be established at Christ Church CofE Primary School.

Executive member for climate, waste, and sustainability Anniemieke Waite commented: “I think it will be potentially quite transformational.”

The new facilities are the third phase of the council’s “SEND safety valve programme.”

Ms Gibbons said: “We’ve done a lot of work over the past 18 months to improve the experiences of our young people; and the nurture groups and resources bases already up and running have been incredibly successful in ensuring that needs can be met within a mainstream school, rather than specialist provision, where it’s possible and appropriate.”

Assistant director of educational partnerships at the council, Pip Hesketh said: “The success of the nurture groups far exceeds anything that we thought it might achieve and we had parents telling us ‘if this was in place when I was at school my whole life would have looked different.’”

She added: “I think its taken us all a bit by surprise. We are delighted of course.”

Ms Hesketh said that, following the council’s work on nature groups, multi-academy trusts in the area were now looking at setting them up at their schools.