Initial plans have been drawn up as to how Hartlepool will support those with special educational needs in schools in the coming years.

Hartlepool Borough Council chiefs have begun a feasibility study at Catcote Academy to enable the area to meet the demand for SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) places now and in the future.

It is proposed to modify the area of the school which accommodates students with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), which includes storage for large items of equipment and changing facilities.

Under the plans it would also include the creation of an area for autistic spectrum disorder students and provide additional classrooms for the ‘expected increase in student numbers’.

However, the work is subject to ongoing feasibility and procurement exercise, relevant planning, building control approvals being obtained, Catcote Academy agreeing to the increased capacity and a commissioning agreement put in place.

The update was provided in a Children’s Services Committee report by council director of children’s and joint commissioning services Sally Robinson.

It said: “A feasibility study has begun at Catcote Academy and to be able to meet the demand for SEND places required now and in future years it is proposed to modify the area of the school which accommodates students with PMLD.

“An initial design has been proposed, however, the trust continues to work with the local authority to establish what provision would need to look like to be able to fully deliver the curriculum.”

It comes after an increased number of requests for year 6 statutory assessments were made, and council teams have been working with primary schools to model and project pupil numbers, for those currently in years three, four and five.

The funding for the plans comes as in March 2017, the Government Department For Education (DfE) announced Special Provision Capital Fund allocations to all local authorities. It is to create new school places and improve existing facilities for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, with an education, health and care plan.

In May and December 2018, the DfE announced top-ups of the fund to local authorities, including Hartlepool.

The council had previously looked at funding to create an additional five places for young people with autistic spectrum disorder at the academy, but at the time the plan was found not to be fit for purpose.