Council to expand SEND provision with 80 more school places

Councillor Eleanor Stringer welcomes the news about Melrose School

Merton Cabinet has approved a £1m proposal to create more than 80 new school places for children with special educational needs and disabilities, including autistic spectrum disorder. 

Following a meeting on Monday 6 September, it was agreed that Melrose School in Church Road, Mitcham, would expand onto an additional site in Whatley Avenue, Raynes Park, enabling new provision to open from September 2022. 

The decision has cross-party support, as well as from local schools, residents and parents, following local consultation, and will see the capacity of Melrose increase from 78 to 158 pupils. 

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 autistic 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 in the borough for the increasing number of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, especially children with autistic spectrum disorder who have complex needs that mean they need educating outside of our mainstream schools.   

“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. 

“Our consultations on the proposals have met with near unanimous support: there is a cross-party consensus, local schools are in favour, and residents and parents have been actively engaged in all stages of the planning and given their whole-hearted backing.”