A former school could become a support base for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) under new £1.4million refurbishment plans.
Earlier this year, Sunderland City Council leaders revealed plans to use the former Springwell Dene School to support pupil referral unit places (PRU) in the city.
A PRU unit provides services for pupils who are unable to attend a mainstream school or access special schools in the area.
On October 17, the council’s cabinet backed plans to revamp the derelict buildings off Swindon Road, which returned to council ownership in April.
City leaders also plan to amalgamate three existing PRU units Sunderland into a single body based at the new site.
Refurbishment works will see the Springwell school site benefit from building repairs, a new sports pitch, revised ICT systems, improved kitchen and dining facilities and seperate entrances for different age groups.
The project will cost £1.068m with extra estimates of £177,000 needed for ICT systems and £180,000 for fixtures and equipment.
Additionally, the potential PRU merger – which includes moving PRU provision from Sunderland’s Tudor Grove centre the Springwell by September 2019 – will be subject to full consultation.
Cabinet member for children, learning and skills, Louise Farthing, presenting the report to cabinet at Sunderland Civic Centre, said the changes would see the creation of a single management committee for the new centre.
“The benefits of this will also include efficiency in commissioning, consistency in management across all age ranges, the ability to more effectively share resources across all key stages and effective peer review.”
Sunderland’s PRU is currently organised as three separate provisions including key stage one (age 5-7), key stage two and three and (7-14) and key stage four (14-16).
Services for younger age groups are provided at the Tudor Grove Centre in Portland Road while Key Stage 4 is delivered from the Pallion Centre.
If merger plans are approved, the vacant Tudor Grove site will be declared surplus to educational requirements with an estimated cost of half a million pounds, a report states.
It adds if the land is sold, funds will be used to offset costs associated with the refurbishment.
The Springwell Dene site was previously owned by the Ascent Academy Trust and was declared surplus following internal changes.
Building works on the site will be funded from a £600,000 SEND capital grant from government with the remaining funds coming the council’s school maintenance pot, developer contributions and prudential borrowing.
Cabinet member for communities and culture, Coun John Kelly, added:
“I think it will provide a fantastic service to some of our most vulnerable children in the city.”
The full consultation process on the PRU service merger will start in January 2019 following pre-consultation with Sunderland schools and academies.
Consultation findings are expected to return to council bosses in March for decision.