The proposed addition of Specialist Support Centres within West Sussex

Closed 6 Mar 2020

Opened 3 Feb 2020

Results expected 27 Mar 2020

Feedback Updated 20 Apr 2020

We Asked

The new SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilty) and Inclusion Strategy 2019-2024 supports the additional places for SEND school places. This consultation proposed the addition of four new Specialist Support Centres (SSC's) and the re-designation of an existing SSC creating an additional 58 spaces. The SSC's will cater for pupils with 'social communication needs'.

You Said

A total of 169 responses. Overall  a minimum of 80% supported proposals and agreeing that the schools were centred on the needs of children (above 68% across the five schools). Other comments reflected that appropiate finances would need to be afforded to each school and that there were a lack of SEND places in some localities, Horsham being highlighted.

We Did

Consultation reponses have been shared with schools. Individual school governing bodies will now take decisions whether to proceed with an SSC. Feasability studies are being carried out at the respective schools. Seperate consultations are also being conducted at the following Academy schools; Edward Bryant - Bognor Regis (12 additional places),  Worthing High (re-deignation to Social Communication Needs and 4 additional places), Warden Park - Cuckfield (re-deignation to Social Communication Needs and 8 additional places).



To achieve the ambition of giving children and young people the best start in life (West Sussex Plan 2018-2022), it is important to work in partnership with parent carers and young people as well as education providers and other professionals from across social care, health and education.

Why We Are Consulting

The County Council has been developing a new Education and Skills Strategy to support the inclusion of all children and young people, particularly those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). This strategy builds on the SEND strategy for 2016-2019 and the outcomes of the 2018 Ofsted/CQC SEND Local Area inspection.

The new SEND and Inclusion Strategy for West Sussex 2019-2024 has been co-produced during the spring term 2019, with a wide representation of stakeholders, indeed more than 150 people have participated in the development workshops and events.  The stakeholders have included parent carers and young people as well as education providers and other professionals from across social care, health and education to ensure it relates to other County Council strategies.

This booklet explains the proposals for additional Specialist Support Centres (SSC's) and re-designation of one school to cater for the additional numbers and changes in SEND needs.  WSCC, in its role as commissioner of school places, is working in partnership with the schools by co-ordinating this consultation exercise on their behalf.  The individual governing bodies of each of the schools concerned will take the final decision.

We value your ideas and comments on these proposals, urge you to read this document and respond to us with your views by completing the survey using the link provided below.   There is also a response form at the back of the consultation booklet if this is needed for those who are unable to get online. We will pass your thoughts to the relevant schools for their consideration.  Your opinions are important to us all and will influence how and where school places are provided.

Our preferred method of response is for you to complete this online survey.  Alternatively, you can respond as follows:

1. Contact School Organisation & Development Team by emailing

2. Complete the response form at the end of the consultation document and return it via your local school or by post to:

The School Organisation Team, West Sussex County Council, Ground Floor, Northleigh, Tower Street, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 1RH

Please note: Due to the volume of responses we receive when consulting on school proposals, we will not be able to acknowledge written responses or enter into correspondence with interested parties during or after the consultation period. A list of frequently asked questions will be made available to view online and will be updated throughout the consultation period.

Alternate formats 

If you require this information in an alternative format, please contact us on 0330 22 23049 or via email at If you are deaf or hard of hearing and have an NGT texting app installed on your computer, laptop or smartphone, you can contact us on 18001 0330 22 23049 .

What Happens Next

After the consultation closing date, responses will be anonymised, collated and shared with the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills who will take a decision on whether the expansion can proceed.  This is likely to take place in April 2020. 

The design of any additional buildings (if applicable) will also be subject to a full planning application which is likely to take place later that year following a feasability study in preperation for a September 2021 opening.


Pupil numbers – a national issue

West Sussex County Council has been closely monitoring the number of pupils across the county and this number has been rising for the last five years including the number of pupils with SEND.

Pupil numbers – the picture in West Sussex

West Sussex is not excluded from this rise and the County Council has been working alongside schools in recent years to expand the number of places available. The needs of children with SEND is becoming more complex. There is a shortage of specialist planned places, locally to meet demand for places.

Depending on the requirements of the EHCP, children will require a place in a mainstream school, SSC or maintained Special School. In recent years, the requirement for SSC and Special School placements has increased significantly and projections indicate that this trend will continue. Additional capacity is therefore required in both SSCs and Special Schools to enable children to have a school place close to home to reduce revenue costs of Out County placements in the Independent and Non-Maintained Sector (INMS) and costly home to school transport costs.

The SEND and Inclusion Strategy 2019-2024 which sets out how the County Council will support the inclusion of all children and young people, with a particular focus on those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

The vision is that all children and young people in West Sussex will, irrespective of their learning needs or abilities, gain the skills and confidence to live well in their community. They will be supported and nurtured through an educational system that responds to their circumstances and prepares them for adulthood.

Within the Strategy three priorities have been identified:

  • Knowing our children and families well (an inclusive, person centred approach).
  • Meeting the needs of our children and young people through our schools, educational settings and services.
  • Working together towards solutions (collective responsibility).

As part of the new strategy, a review of existing specialist provision has been undertaken. In addition, the number of children with SEND that are educated in placements out of the county as their needs are not able to be met in maintained schools or Academies has also been reviewed.

Increasing provision for children and young people with SEND through the creation of additional places in SSCs will assist with the aim of enabling children to attend school locally.

Best Start in Life: the proposal will positively impact on the outcomes for children and young people with SEND and enable them to be educated locally. It is also a key part of the SEND and Inclusion Strategy 2019 - 2024.

The needs of children with SEND are also becoming more complex and this is driving increased financial pressures across the system. There is a shortage of local specialist educational provision to meet need, particularly in relation to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs (SEMH), and this is resulting in the County Council needing to increase the number of children educated in specialist placements with independent providers. There is also an increased demand for top-up funding across all settings.

There is a lack of capacity within mainstream schools to provide a graduated response to additional needs. Many schools are facing financial pressures and therefore do not have the capacity to provide additional support to pupils. As a result, this is driving up the demand for more specialist education services, as children with low level SEND who could potentially attend mainstream schools are being educated in more specialist provision. This is coupled with an increase in the number of pupils being excluded and the need to provide costly alternative provision. Parental requests for specific high cost placements and tribunal decisions to support parental preference are also further driving demands on the Dedicated Schools Grant High Needs Block.

A number of schools were approached to explore opportunities for the development or expansion of SSC places based on geography and identified need; the potential for development (available land) and the interest from the school in having or expanding such facilities.

There has been a positive response to increasing provision for children with SEND from a range of stakeholders including West Sussex Parent Carer Forum during the consultation process undertaken as part of the SEND and Inclusion Strategy in the summer of 2019.

Communication and Interaction (Social Communication Needs)

Within the code of practice (, communication and interaction is defined as follows:

Paragraph 6.29

‘Children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) have difficulty in communicating with others. This may be because they have difficulty saying what they want to, understanding what is being said to them, or they do not understand or use social rules of communication. The profile for every child with SLCN is different and their needs may change over time. They may have difficulty with one, some or all of the different aspects of speech, language or social communication at different times of their lives.’

Children and young people with ASD, including Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism, are likely to have particular difficulties with social interaction. They may also experience difficulties with language, communication and imagination, which can impact on how they relate to others. Communication and interaction needs (Social Communication Needs) could include:

  • difficulties with producing or responding to expressive or receptive language
  • difficulties uttering speech sounds
  • difficulties understanding spoken and other communications from others
  • difficulties with understanding age-related social conventions of interaction, such as turn-taking during conversations or appropriate level of physical contact during play


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