A specialist autism centre alongside Meadowgate School in Wisbech is supported
- Credit: Archant
A school for children with autism could be opened at Wisbech after plans to build a new centre next to Meadowgate were supported by county councillors.
The 50-place school for children aged from two to 19 years old, called the Max Centre, could be opened by September 2018.
A question mark hangs over the parcel of land ear marked for the centre as there are ideas for a new secondary school for Wisbech to also be build in that area.
However, town councillor Sam Hoy said of the autism centre: “This is a fantastic idea that has local support.
“I understand about the secondary school but I must express again that the local residents do not want the secondary school there and there have been very many complaints from residents.
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“I really feel we must build the secondary school to the west of the town.”
The autism centre bid comes amid figures which show that in the last decade autism has “risen significantly” from 20 per cent in 2006 to 32 per cent of all young people with special needs in Cambridgeshire.
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Four in ten children at special schools in the county are now on the autistic spectrum, a report said.
Ian Trafford, area education officer, said: “There is a clear needs-based case for the specialist provision proposed.
“There is also an expectation of an education benefit from having this new provision sponsored by an outstanding school.”
He added it would: “Make it easier for students to access out of school opportunities that may be available and develop friendships within their own community.
“This could help to support the development of healthier and more independent lifestyles,” he said.
Class sizes would be around eight pupils and there would be one class per key stage, according to a report submitted to the children and young people’s committee of Cambridgeshire County Council.
Once opened, Meadowgate School, which has 140 places, would be reduced to 130 places, so that: “Some of the young people with very complex ASD will move into the new school.”
It is expected that the new autism centre would reduce movement from Meadowgate School to the independent ASD centre for the older children where their needs increase as the young people reach adolescence.
The Max Centre is planned for land currently owned by the College of West Anglia.
To complete the application process Meadowgate will need to become an academy, according to a report, which backed by county councillors on July 12.