More new school places for children and young people with additional needs and disabilities in Surrey 

As part of Surrey County’s Council ambition for children and young people to live, learn and grow up locally, we are delighted to announce a number of new initiatives which will offer many new school places to meet the needs of children and young people with additional needs and disabilities over the coming years: 

  • Planning approval granted on 1st March for a new specialist free school in Dorking called Betchwood Vale Academy  
  • Confirmation of funding on 2nd March from the Department for Education (DfE) for a new specialist free school in the north of Surrey  
  • An additional 200+ new specialist school places for children and young people across Surrey, from September 2023  

In Surrey, we recognise the importance of language and listening to our children and young people, who have told us their preferred terminology when talking about additional needs and disabilities. This includes the use of “Additional Needs and Disabilities” rather than “Special Educational Needs and Disabilities or SEND”, wherever possible. However, we will sometimes need to continue to use the term ‘SEND’, while this is the term used in national legislation. We champion the voices of our children and young people in Surrey, and we actively encourage all residents, locally and nationally, to join us in adopting this preferred language, wherever possible.  
Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Education and Learning, said: “I am absolutely delighted that over the coming years we will be able to offer more specialist school places in Surrey for children and young people with additional needs and disabilities. With planning approval of a new specialist school in Dorking, confirmed funding for another new specialist school in the north of Surrey, and our continued efforts to provide over 200 specialist places from September 2023, we are making excellent progress in ensuring our children and young people who need support have access to high quality specialist provision, local to them.  

“I’m so pleased that families and children in Mole Valley have had their voices heard. I welcome the decision of the members of the Mole Valley planning committee and would like to thank the DfE and all of Surrey County Council’s staff who have worked tirelessly to secure this approval and to deliver many more school places in other projects. Going to school close to home makes it much easier for children to stay connected to their families, friends and their local communities, which is so important for their wellbeing, and ultimately their outcomes. This is why we are absolutely determined to ensure we have sufficient provision, in Surrey, and we will endeavour always to provide the best possible support for all children and young people and to ensure they receive the education that they deserve.” 

On 1st March, the Mole Valley Development Management Committee approved a planning application for a much-needed specialist school for local autistic children aged 7-19 years in Dorking. The new school, funded by the Department for Education (DfE), will be located on the former garden centre site on Reigate Road and will provide 180 urgently needed additional specialist school places, with a provisional opening date of September 2025, to be confirmed by the DfE in due course. The approval of this planning application is fantastic news as currently within Mole Valley, 90% of autistic children travel more than six miles from home to attend an appropriate specialist school.  

On 2nd March, the DfE announced an improvement plan for children and young people across England with “special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)” or in alternative provision (AP) which will mean they get high-quality, early support wherever they live in the country. The national plan, which aligns with Surrey County Council’s existing approach to improving “SEND” services, confirms investment in training for thousands of workers so children can get the help they need earlier, alongside thousands of additional specialist school places for those with the greatest needs – as 33 new special free schools are approved to be built. Surrey County Council is delighted to announce that we have been successful in our bid to the Department for Education to open one of these new specialist  schools in the north of Surrey. Alongside the Department for Education, we will shortly be seeking proposals from organisations which are interested in establishing and running the new school.   

Over the last four years, we have increased Surrey’s state-maintained specialist education estate by approximately 700 places, from around 3,320 in 2019 when the Capital programme started, to around 4,000 places now. We are on track to create another 200+ places from September 2023 in Surrey’s specialist schools and “special educational needs units” in mainstream primary and secondary schools. The programme is funded through a combined Capital investment of £202m which will create more than 2,440 new specialist school places within Surrey’s state-maintained specialist education estate by 2030.   

Notes to editors 

  • As noted in this press release, in Surrey, we are committed to embedding the language set out by our children and young people in the Surrey ATLAS Preferred Terminology report. Where a nationally recognised term is used in this release, we have used quote marks to determine that this isn’t the terminology we typically use in Surrey.  


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