Approved plans to fund a new primary school on a Didcot housing development have been criticised by councillors and parents for their “low” SEND provision.

Oxfordshire County Council gave the go-ahead for £2.19m to be spent on the site at Didcot Valley Park during a cabinet meeting last week (February 27), which will be financed by developer contributions as the authority strives to “deliver SEND provision better than we currently do”.

The Valley Park’s new school will be designed to accommodate 630 pupils, with a four-class nursery provision and 12 places for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

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The provision of just 12 SEND places, however has sparked comment for “falling far short” of a local desire for significantly greater provision.

Didcot West county and district councillor Ian Snowdon said: “Didcot is chronically short of places for SEND needs, allotments, cycle and road infrastructure, and let’s not forget the lack of GP surgeries and dentists.

“They are always promised, never delivered. It’s just more and more houses.”

Herald Series: The Valley Park site, where the new primary school will be built. Image: Persimmon.

Didcot East and Hagbourne county councillor Jane Murphy said: "It's good to see SEND provision for this new school, however it’s far short of the full requirement for the Didcot area – there is an inherent lack already.

“This is a small step forward and too little too late for a town granted so many new houses with nowhere near enough provision to reflect that."

Terez Moore, a Didcot mother whose child attends a specialist outside of the county said: “There is little to no provision of specialist settings. My child, now of secondary school age, had to wait a year and a half to find somewhere and is now in Lincolnshire.

“I know several children locally through a support group I run of all different primary school ages on temporary timetables or not even in school settings yet. Every case is individual yet not treated this way. There is no early intervention.”

Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission found “widespread and systemic failings” in SEND provision throughout Oxfordshire in July last year. 

Didcot West ward district councillor Tony Worgan said: “We need educational places in Didcot to match a growing population and we’re crying out for SEND need already so any additional provision here is good.

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“If 12 is the right number I don’t know, it sounds low to me. We need to make sure schools are already in place and open as they are currently oversubscribed.”

John Howson, county councillor for children, education and young people's services, commented in last Tuesday’s cabinet meeting on the need to “get ahead of the housing” and “working to make sure that schools are in place and ready when for people first start to move in to homes on new housing developments.”

The Didcot Valley Park housing development, where the school will be located, is expected to result in 800 homes being built over the next 17 years. Other councillors in the meeting argued the extra 800 homes would overwhelm amenities in the area.