Special school set to be expanded to create more places for pupils with autism

More than 80 new school places for children with special educational needs and disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, could be created in an empty school building.

At a meeting held on Tuesday 22 June, the Council’s Cabinet agreed to publish proposals to consult on expanding Melrose School in Church Road, Mitcham, onto an additional site in Whatley Avenue, Raynes Park, which would enable the new provision to open from September 2022, eventually providing 80 places.  

The former adult education building in Whatley Avenue was temporarily used by the new secondary school, Harris Academy Wimbledon, before it moved to its permanent site in South Wimbledon in autumn 2020.

Melrose School is part of the Melbury College Federation. It already has wide experience of working effectively with vulnerable children including with medical needs and for pupils with autism spectrum disorder.   

Although the council has expanded special schools in recent years, it has been unable to keep up with the increasing demand for more school places for children with special educational needs and disabilities, particularly those with autism spectrum disorder.  

Merton Council’s Joint Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children and Education, Councillor Eleanor Stringer, said: “There is an urgent need to provide more school places for the increasing number of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, especially children with autism spectrum disorder, whose complex needs means they need educating outside of our mainstream schools. We want fewer children with these needs to have to travel outside the borough for their education.  

“Whatley Avenue is a former school building which could be quickly adapted to meet the needs of a significant number of pupils who need extra support with their learning. Using this site to educate pupils with special education needs and disabilities will benefit these children and their families, and I’m glad that the building can continue to play a vital role in education in Merton.”