West Berkshire Council

Start date: 2021-04-30
End date: 2021-06-13
Results: 2021-08-13

Proposal to establish a new specialist resourced provision for secondary-age learners with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) on the old Theale Primary School site

Have your say

This consultation has closed.


A consultation took place between 9 November and 20 December 2020 to seek views on our proposal to develop a specialist resourced provision for up to 42 secondary-aged learners (aged 11 to 18 years) with complex social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs, who may also have a diagnosis of autism.

The response to the consultation was very positive, with 98% (84 out of 86) of respondents in favour of the proposals. Several respondents stated that this was badly needed provision, which they very much welcomed.

A detailed analysis of the consultation outcome can be found on the original consultation webpage.

What we're proposing

Further work has now taken place to identify a suitable site for the new provision. The purpose of this consultation is to seek views on the development of the new provision on the old Theale Primary School site at Church Street, Theale, Berkshire RG7 5BZ.

Why use this site?

A site is needed which can provide seven classrooms, a hall/dining area, some specialist teaching areas, small group rooms, catering facilities and staff and ancillary accommodation, as well as outdoor space for recreation and exercise.

A site search has been undertaken across the district for this provision, which has identified the old Theale Primary School building as the most viable option. The site was vacated by the primary school when it moved to new premises in 2020 and is a suitable location for the following reasons:

  • The building is available for use and currently unoccupied.
  • As the building was previously used as a school it lends itself well to conversion for use as a specialist provision for children with SEND.
  • The building offers all the required space without the need for any new buildings.
  • The use of this building represents the efficient use of existing public resources.
  • Whilst the site is not in the centre of West Berkshire, there are good transport links given the proximity to the M4.

No other viable options have been identified. Purchasing a new site would not represent an efficient use of resources, given the availability of the Theale site, and would also significantly extend the timeframe within which this much needed resource could be delivered.

Consideration was  given to existing, vacant council sites which could be re-developed. The only site currently available was that of the former care home site situated at Walnut Close, Thatcham. This would require a significant rebuild project and therefore again, did not represent best use of resources. This option would also, similarly, result in a substantial delay in delivery.

How many young people will attend the provision?

When it is operating at full capacity, the resource will cater for 42 young people, consisting of five groups of six young people in the 11 to 16 age range and two groups of six young people in the post-16 department. However, the provision will grow in size over time, starting with approximately twelve young people in September 2022. It will probably take four to five years for the provision to reach its full capacity.

Will the students attending the provision be transported to and from school?

It is likely that the majority of students will be transported to and from school, although in some cases they may make their own way or be transported by parents. Where young people are transported, they will travel by taxi or minibus. As far as possible, students will be transported by minibus rather than taxi in order to reduce the number of vehicles coming to and leaving the site at the start and end of the school day. The traffic generated will be relatively low compared to traffic associated with a mainstream primary school.

What sort of special educational needs will the young people have?

The provision is for young people who have complex needs in relation to social, emotional and mental health difficulties, who may also have a diagnosis of autism, or may be waiting to be assessed for autism. Students will be young people who have found a mainstream school environment difficult due to their anxieties and their need for small teaching groups in a nurturing environment with specialist staff. Students will benefit from high staffing ratios and a high level of support and supervision. They will generally remain on site during the school day; if they need to leave the site to access other activities they will always be accompanied by staff.

What will be involved in the building work?

There will be no new buildings erected on the site or extensions to the existing buildings. The majority of the work will be refurbishment of the existing buildings, together with removal of some of the older temporary buildings, which should make the site more attractive.

Why we want your views

We'd like to hear your views on our plan to establish a specialist resourced provision on the site of the old Theale Primary School. 

How to take part

If you'd like to comment on our proposal, please complete our survey by midnight on Sunday, 13 June 2021. It should take approximately 10 minutes.

If you have any queries about the consultation, please contact SENConsultations@westberks.gov.uk

Further information

We held a public webinar with Councillor Dominic Boeck (Portfolio Holder for Education Service) and Ian Pearson (Head of Education Service) on Wednesday, 12 May 2021, to discuss the proposal and answer questions.  If you missed this webinar, it's available to view on our YouTube channel.

*UPDATE - a meeting was held with Theale Parish Council on 12 May 2021, pdf icon you can view the minutes online [33kb].

What happens next

Your feedback will be taken into consideration, and a recommendation will be put to elected Members at the Executive meeting on Thursday, 14 October 2021.