Having bought the buildings that housed St Mary’s School in Shaftesbury for £10.5 million, Dorset Council now hopes to turn it into a centre for young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
Local people, community and stakeholder groups are being asked to examine the proposed plans and share their views when a public consultation starts on 4 February.
Cllr Spencer Flower, leader of Dorset Council, said, “We are very ambitious for this site and for our children and young people who have special educational needs. I’m pleased that we have been able to secure St Mary’s so it can remain a resource for our communities and benefit the people of Dorset for generations to come. Importantly this move could also save revenue expenditure in the longer term.
“Currently pupils with special educational needs often have to travel far outside Dorset, as there is just not enough educational provision closer to home. This is not good for Dorset children and young people. It also costs significantly more, as buying this external provision outside of our county is more expensive and travel costs are much higher too. It is also worth noting that opportunities to secure sites like this for Dorset are very rare: it would cost a great deal more, and take several years, to build such a wonderful facility like this from scratch. This is a clear example of investing to save, fitting with the ethos of being a bold and ambitious council
“This offers exciting potential for many other community and service uses too, which we will be exploring in partnership with local people and community groups, so together we can get the maximum benefit from this investment in the interest of Dorset residents.”
St Mary’s School, which was founded in 1945, closed in July 2020.
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