Plans have been unveiled for more than 80 new special needs places at Norfolk schools after the council was criticised for “letting down” vulnerable children.

Norfolk County Council revealed the six primary schools that have been selected for the extra spaces, which will cater to a range of different requirements including some for children with social, emotional and mental health needs.

Funding for the scheme will come from a £70m grant awarded earlier this year from the Department for Education to improve SEN provision in the region.

The new bases planned are as follows:

  • Falcon Junior School in Norwich - eight-place additional intervention base
  • Holly Meadows Primary in King's Lynn - 16-place early intervention base
  • Newton VA Primary in Swaffham - 10-place learning and cognition needs base
  • Redcastle Family School in Thetford - 16-place early intervention base
  • Sprowston Junior School in Norwich - 16-place additional intervention base
  • St William's Primary in Norwich - 16-place social, emotional and mental health base

The bases in Redcastle and Falcon are planning to open next year in February and September respectively, while all others are due to open in September 2025.

Eastern Daily Press: Aerial photograph of County Hall in Norwich. Picture: Mike PageAerial photograph of County Hall in Norwich. Picture: Mike Page (Image: ©Coypright Mike Page, All Rights ReservedBefore any use is made of this picture, including dispaly, publication, broadcast, sy)

The bases in Redcastle and Falcon are set to open next year in February and September respectively, while all others are due to open in September 2025.

It comes with the county still struggling to provide enough specialist education for children with additional needs.

Previously, County Hall had been criticised for "letting down" vulnerable children - with difficulties finding places leading to the council spending almost £500,000 in one year on legal fees defending itself against appeals from unhappy parents.

The council has also been forced in recent years to send children to schools as far away as Devon and Somerset because suitable placements could not be found locally.

But earlier this year, watchdog Ofsted recognised that improvements had been made amid efforts to create additional spaces.

These have included a pledge to open four new special schools, the most recent of which welcomed its first pupils in January - the Duke of Lancaster in Fakenham.

The new specialist bases are due to create 82 extra spaces as these efforts are accelerated.

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: "These proposals are part of the county council's continued investment in special educational needs support as part of our Local First Inclusion programme.

"They will enable mainstream schools to support children to flourish by providing extra support, ring-fenced funding, higher staffing ratios and access to professionals.

"Each of the proposals will include a county council-funded capital project to create safe spaces for children to learn when not accessing mainstream classes, as well as providing adaptations to cater to the bespoke nature of each provision."

The new bases will be a combination of purpose-built spaces, extensions of existing schools and refurbishments.

However, it also comes with the council seeking to address a £14m overspend in its children's services department.

However, questions have been raised over whether sufficient staff can be found to run the bases once the bricks and mortar are in place.

Eastern Daily Press: Maxine Webb, Labour's SEND spokesman in NorfolkMaxine Webb, Labour's SEND spokesman in Norfolk

Maxine Webb, Labour's spokesman for special educational needs, said: "It is good to see more, long overdue, specialist provision being created but I hope these spaces will be matched by similar offers in secondary schools so pupils' needs continue to be met as young people transition.

"Likewise, post-16 provision, which is coming up as a huge area of concern at the moment.

"However, I worry where the staff will come from when we know there is a shortage of teachers and teaching assistants - an SRB which opened in Wensum Junior in 2021 is sitting empty because it has no staff- it is a massive problem."