Parents plan a free school for autistic children

Parents plan a free school for autistic children

Simon Meechan

Parents plan a free school for autistic children
Oldfield Primary School is set to move

A free school for autistic children in the Royal Borough could be set up on the current site of Oldfield Primary School.

A group of parents are preparing to submit an application to the Department of Education (DfE) to set up Forest Bridge School, which would cater for pupils aged between four and 19 who have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

They hope to send the application in by May, ahead of opening in September 2015.

One of the school's founders, Jane Balmer, says the aim is to have classes of between six and eight children, with three adult staff in each class.

She added that is too early to know how much the school, which would be funded by central government, will cost.

Jane, whose son has ASD, said Oldfield Primary School's building in Chiltern Road will be included in their application as an available site.

The Royal Borough is transferring Oldfield primary to a new site in Bray Road in a £10m project

A spokeswoman for the Royal Borough said Chiltern Road will remain in educational use and that the council has spoken to Forest Bridge's founders. But no decision has been made and a report on the site will go to cabinet next month.

To set up the free school the parents must prove to the DfE that there is a 'genuine need'.

Forest Bridge's website says there are 300 children in the Royal Borough with autism, and those with higher functioning autism do not always thrive in a mainstream education.

Equally, the parents say, some autistic children would not benefit from the 'highly specialised care' provided by Manor Green, the only special school in the Royal Borough.

Asiye Suleyman is one of the school's seven founding members, who also include Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Riverside).

Asiye’s four-year-old son, Allan, has ASD.

She said: "We'd like to give the best to these children. There's a need in the area."

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