COUNCILLORS are to be asked to approve ambitious plans to invest £45m creating a new academy based on four different sites for pupils with social and emotional mental health (SEMH) needs.
The proposals will be discussed by Leeds City Council’s executive board next week.
The authority’s executive member for children and families Coun Lucinda Yeadon said the plan was to provide world class education and support for the young people in the city who needed it most.
The plan is to convert the city’s existing Specialist Inclusion Learning Centre (SILC) for young people with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (BESD) into a new school.
The existing SILC at Elmete Wood has been rated as inadequate by the education watchdog Ofsted.
The council plan to get an academy order to convert this into a new SEMH school. The new SEMH school would also operate on two new sites in the south and east of Leeds.The plan would also include taking on the current BESD primary school in Oakwood.
All this provision would be run through one academy trust.
The report to the executive board says an academy sponsor in Barnsley has been identified to lead the new academy.
It says: “One of the very few outstanding providers of SEMH provision in the North of England is the Wellspring Academy Trust.
We are seeking to develop a strong partnership with this trust. Through forming a partnership with Wellspring we will be able to deliver a world class provision in the city. Wellspring Academy Trust are experts in the education of young people with SEMH needs, evidenced by their ‘outstanding’ Ofsted judgments.
Councillors will be told the plan could cost up to £45m although this is a worst-case scenario.
The report to councillors says the new SEMH academy would be for children and young people between the age of four and 19.
It adds: “It would operate over four sites to better meet the needs of local communities and minimise travel.”
The council would be using the existing sites at Elmete Wood and Oakwood and look to identify two sites for the south and east of the city. The report says: “The capital investment requirements of £45m would be an investment in a world class, specialist learning environment, run by an outstanding provider working in partnership with Leeds.
It would enable the city to provide its most vulnerable learners with an holistic education, integrating therapeutic and nurture provisions within personalised pathways for the children and young people.
Without investment the learners with the highest levels of need will not have accommodation in Leeds suitable for the purpose of meeting their needs.
Coun Yeadon said: “We want to ensure Leeds is providing world class support to the young people who need it the most.
“What better way to demonstrate our commitment to being a Child Friendly city than through the support we provide to our most vulnerable young people.”
The report says that the life chances of children with SEMH are much worse than their peers in terms of attainment in school, chances of youth offending and dropping out of education and training without securing a job.
The report says the city does not currently have sufficient suitable educaton for its most vulnerable children.