A special school for children with a diagnosis of autism (ASD) is to receive millions in funding for a new sixth form for its students, the only one of its kind in Hackney.
The Garden School in Stoke Newington, which has been rated Outstanding by Ofsted twice and hosts 150 students, has been vocal about the need for a post-16 provision for the borough for years.
Now Hackney Council has approved just over £1.5m in central government grant money to fund a feasibility study and future expansion of a new site for the sixth form, with the Garden to put up £500,000 for the remaining investment.
A Garden School spokesperson said: “It’s early days, but it obviously is really exciting news for our parents in particular, because there is no specialist post-16 provision for students with a diagnosis of autism like this in the borough, and we’ve been requesting it for four or five years.
“All indicators are that we will get this post-16 provision, as the council seems to be onside as well. Because it’s on another site, we’ll be able to develop a lot more focus on preparation for adulthood.
“What we want to do is set them up for the next stage of their life, and see how we can move them into the community and find supportive settings and placements.
“It’s very good news for us. We’d be looking to do it as soon as possible so the students don’t have to go out of borough to other areas and we can start building on the expertise in the borough to work with young adults with these needs.”
The Garden has a horticulture space used by the students, but the spokesperson added that the expansion is being viewed as an opportunity to develop links with all the gardens and green spaces in Hackney, to look at possible work-related learning placements for the students.
It has not yet been revealed where the site is, but it is understood the consequent expansion of the staff roster (assuming the feasibility study is successful) will provide opportunities for the employment and training of new staff members.
The sixth form new site would prevent students having to leave their community for their education.
Overall, The Town Hall has received £2.4m from a government commitment of funding to help councils create new school places and improve existing facilities for children and young people with SEND.
Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville (Lab & Co-op) said: “I want to thank officers for the work they’ve done…on the long-held wish around the expansion of the Garden School and SEND provision in the borough.
“We’ve been doing a lot of detailed work on the additional resources coming in from the government to help with that and this is something that we have been building towards. It’s a big commitment in terms of our provision for autism facilities in the borough.”
Cllr Chris Kennedy (Lab, Hackney Wick), cabinet member for families, early years and play, added: “It’s absolutely what we should be doing in the borough – expanding our SEND provision inhouse, rather than spending so much on places out of the borough. This is the development of a highly thought-of, highly-respected educational institution.”