Plans to open a new free school to serve South Gloucestershire, Bristol and Bath & North East Somerset have taken a step forward.

Learn@ Multi-Academy Trust will now work with all three councils and the Department for Education to progress detailed plans to provide a 136-place school for students aged between 5 and 18 who have a combination of social, emotional, mental health or speech, language and communication needs.

The new school will also provide weekday overnight support and accommodation in a 12-place respite unit and a 20-place 6th form.

During the next few months designs will be drawn up for the old 4.8 acre Soundwell College site in Kingswood to become a modern school including vocational areas for engineering, vehicle workshop, hair and beauty and hospitality and catering training. It is anticipated that part of the current site will be demolished and rebuilt and the rest of the old college refurbished.

Providing employment for up to 80 staff across teaching, administration, technical support, catering and maintenance, it is anticipated that the school will fully open by September 2020.

Learn@ Multi-Academy Trust Chief Executive Peter Evans, said, “There are too many young people across the region who are not getting the right education as they cannot be offered a place in a specialist school. Often they end up excluded with limited opportunities for progression to further education.

“Our new school will be modelled on Knowle DGE Academy which has an excellent track record in providing tailored learning for children with a variety of complex needs. Too often we are turning families away as we do not have enough places to offer.

“Many of the young people we see have not had the best start at school for reasons that are not their fault – we aim to turn this around for them and will continue to work closely with local primary and secondary schools for early planning and referrals.”

Once plans have been drawn up for the site, they will be submitted to South Gloucestershire Council for approval. The Department for Education has approved Learn@ MAT as providers for a new specialist free school and their free school developer, LocatED purchased the Kingswood site in 2017.

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