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Proposed development of an SEMH Unit for 12 children at Kennet Valley School

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Consultation status Archived
Start date: 2022-09-20
End date: 2022-10-31
Results 2022-11-30
Category: Caring for Children and Families, Schools, Learning and Libraries

Activity closed. Results published.

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In West Berkshire, a significant number of children have Social Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs. Children with SEMH can feel scared and anxious when their needs are left unmet, which can lead to responses of anger or frustration. Some children with SEMH require more specialised support to thrive, making it difficult to meet their needs within a typical mainstream school.

Although there is a spectrum of specialised provision in West Berkshire, including local Special Schools and ASD provisions, there is a need for more local placement options for young people with SEMH. Children with SEMH are often placed in independent or non-maintained schools which may be outside of the district. Unfortunately, these children may have to travel large distances to attend these settings, making it more difficult for them to access other support which they may need, such as mental health services or therapy. The Local Authority are unable to assure the quality of the teaching and learning in these settings because of their location and independent status.

We plan to develop Secondary and Primary SEMH settings within the district. These proposals form part of the West Berkshire SEND Strategy 2018-2023, which was co-produced with local families and stakeholders in 2018. The Castle @ Theale, a maintained setting for secondary aged children with SEMH in West Berkshire, opened in September 2022, .

What we're proposing

To meet the needs of primary aged children with SEMH, we're proposing that a new SEMH unit be established at Kennet Valley School for 12 children. The quality of Kennet Valley's SEND provision, as well as its advocacy for Therapeutic Thinking approaches, has been recognised by local families, Ofsted and West Berkshire Council (WBC), making the school a strong potential host for this provision.

Children who attend Kennet Valley's SEMH unit will be taught separately from children attending the main school, with separate break, lunch and PE sessions. The unit will be based within a new bespoke building, which will be staffed by a high number of staff to children. Multi-agency support from different services, including a Mental Health Worker, Educational Psychologist and a Family Support Worker, will be a key feature of this unit.

The new SEMH unit will have the following facilities:

  • Two main classrooms
  • Four small group rooms
  • A discrete outdoor space for teaching and breaks
  • A teaching kitchen
  • A social area for pupils
  • A small therapy room
  • A staffroom and offices
  • A large meeting room
  • Dedicated WCs for staff and pupils

Kennet Valley School will receive extensive support from WBC, and partnering services, to develop and establish this provision. Careful planning will take place to ensure a high quality design, and minimal disruption to the main school site. In addition, Kennet Valley School will work in close partnership with The Castle @ Theale, to share practice and resources, ensuring the school have the necessary resources to lead this provision.

What impact will this have on children currently attending Kennet Valley School?

Children attending Kennet Valley's SEMH will be taught separately to children attending the main school within a new building, which will be built on the Kennet Valley site. Break times, lunch and PE will be scheduled separately. Children and families attending the SEMH unit will benefit from separate access and parking to the main school.

By hosting this provision, Kennet Valley will become a highly specialised mainstream school, with a range of integrated services and expertise, which all children and families attending the school will benefit from. Practice will be shared between the unit and the main school and staff will be able to seek advice and support for children in their classrooms from their professional peers in the unit. Children enrolled at Kennet Valley's main school with additional needs, such as Autism, will benefit from this.

Children attending the SEMH unit will benefit from having their needs met by a local and specialised setting, but will also be valued and cared for as part of Kennet Valley's existing school culture; taking part in school events and sharing school facilities where appropriate. On occasions it will be appropriate for children attending the provision to participate in shared events and celebrations at the school. Resources will be shared across the Kennet Valley site, and children from the SEMH unit may be timetabled to use facilities like the main school hall.

Would children with SEMH needs be better suited to a Special School or Pupil Referral Unit?

Children with acute SEMH needs require specialised provision, but cannot always be appropriately placed within local special schools or Pupil Referral Units (PRUs). Our special schools support children with highly complex learning difficulties, whilst our PRUs, such as the iCollege, typically support children who present with challenging behaviours, which makes it difficult for them to access mainstream education.

Children attending Kennet Valley's SEMH unit will generally be able to attain within age related expectations, with specialised support and differentiation. Generally, these children will not have been excluded from previous settings, and their presenting behaviours are a result of unmet need, rather than a desire not to engage with education. This makes a specialised unit an appropriate fit for these children.

Is there enough space for this development on the Kennet Valley site?

Kennet Valley School has a large school playing field that can accommodate this facility whilst still offering substantial outside space for all children. Once development of this facility has completed, Kennet Valley's outside space will remain significantly in excess of the minimum amount of outside space a school of its size is required to provide. The amount of outside space schools and local authorities can use for development is protected under legislation. If this proposal proceeds to the next stage of development, a Section 77 application will be submitted to the Department of Education to seek consent for this development.

Plans showing the development of this facility and the proposed use of the school playing field will be shared at an appropriate stage of development.

How to take part

If you'd like to comment on our proposals, please complete our survey by midnight on Monday, 31 October 2022, which should take about five minutes.

We held a public seminar with representatives from WBC's Education and Property Services, Kennet Valley School's Leadership Team and WBC's Executive Member for Education at Kennet Valley school hall on Tuesday, 27 September 2022 between 6.30pm and 7.30pm. The panel gave a short presentation on the proposals before answering questions submitted by the public.

You can read a copy of the Icon for pdf minutes of the meeting [43KB] and a Icon for pdf summary of the questions sumbitted and answers given [45KB] online.

If you have any questions about the consultation or would like a Icon for pdf copy of the detailed proposal document [43KB] and consultation in an alternative or physical format, please email, call 01635 519713 or write to SEND Consultations, SEN and Disabled Children's Service, West Berkshire Council, Market Street Offices, Newbury, Berkshire, RG14 5LD.

For general enquiries about schools and learning, please visit our webpage

What happens next

Your feedback will be taken into consideration, and a recommendation will be put to Head of Education, as a delegated officer, for a final decision in November 2022.

If the decision is to proceed to the next stage, WBC will submit a Section 77 application to the Department of Education to request approval for development of the school field.

What you told us

We received a large number of responses to the consultation. The vast majority of these responses were supportive of the proposal. In summary:
  • 78 people engaged with the online survey during the consultation.
  • Of this number, 55 people offered their approval to the proposals (70.5%), 7 people disapproved (9%) and the remainder (21.5%) skipped the question.
  • The largest groups of respondents were education professionals (43.6%), local residents (29.5%), parents or carers of a child with SEND (18%) and parent or carers of a child attending Kennet Valley School (14.1%).
  • All respondents who shared part of their post codes indicated that they live in Berkshire. The largest proportion of those who responded live near to Kennet Valley School.
  • The vast majority of received comments were supportive of the proposal. A range of other issues were raised.

You can read a detailed analysis of the responses to this consultation as part of the report submitted to the Delegated Officer Decision meeting.

What we did

The Head of Education approved the proposal by Delegated Officer Decision. Kennet Valley School’s record on the Get Information about School’s website will updated ahead of the planned opening of the provision in September 2024.

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