Leeds City Council has embarked upon an ambitious scheme that involves a £45 million capital investment to build three new special schools in the city. The scheme involves partnership with Wellspring Academy Trust, a Trust with specialism in the sector, to deliver substantial long term savings in the city’s special needs budget.
The three purpose-built Academies for pupils with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs will be known as Springwell Leeds and will be sister schools to the Springwell Learning Community in Barnsley, on which the designs for the new Academies are based.
The investment will ensure world class provision for children and young people with SEMH needs in the city, with all Academies being operational by September 2018. Within the ambitious scheme, Leeds has reorganised all of its SEMH provision and has refurbished a fourth site that is also part of the new Academy.
Wellspring Academy Trust has a track record of excellence in special education and was invited by the city to begin managing its Pupil Referral Units and SEMH Special School prior to building work beginning and prior to Academy conversion.
Josh Greaves, Wellspring’s Chief Operating Officer, said:
‘Leeds are using the same invest-to-save model that has proved successful in Barnsley. Through upfront prudential short term borrowing to invest in capacity locally, the city will make substantial medium and long term savings on what would otherwise be out of area placements for youngster with special needs’.
The Leeds City Council Executive Board characterised their project as follows:
‘The SEMH programme is designed to be a ‘win-win’ approach – better for children and young people and better for the council and the public purse’. The board identified risks associated with not acting as: ‘increased costs from a growing need for external placements… the need for costly investment to maintain even minimum standards in existing buildings; longer term costs due to increased poor outcomes such as worklessness and adult mental illness’.
Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Executive Member for Children and Families, said:
“The creation of Springwell Leeds marks a progressive and exciting time for specialist learning provision within the city and the £45m investment by Leeds City Council demonstrates our continued commitment to ensuring all pupils are supported to succeed and reach their full potential. This new specialist provision will radically improve the learning, support and outcomes for some of the city’s most vulnerable children.”
Scott Jacques, Executive Principal for Springwell Leeds Academy, Wellspring Academy Trust, said:
“The investment made in these buildings will help us to deliver our vision to provide the best possible care and education that we can for children and young people with Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs. Here at Springwell Leeds Academy we have ‘Unconditional Positive Regard’ for our students and this is at the centre of what we do. We are creating an academy that is welcoming, caring, safe and warm, and believe that all our pupils can be supported and empowered to succeed.”