A special education needs and disability (SEND) school in west Reading will get 60 new places, after an expansion was approved this week.

Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) Policy committee has approved plans to create 60 new places by expanding The Avenue School, a special needs academy on Conway Close in Tilehurst.

The 60 new spaces will be created at The Avenue Centre, a neighbouring building of office space occupied by Reading Borough Council (RBC) And Brighter Futures for Children staff.

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Initially, 30 places will be added in Sep 2021, with 30 more added the following year.

Councillor Ashley Pearce, lead member for Education, said the expansion will be “a win for everyone”, ensuring pupils with additional needs get the right schooling delivered by experts and are closer to friends, families and their community, as well as saving money for the council.

Leader of the council Jason Brock added: “This is a really positive proposal that will meet a real need in Reading and offer a better option for pupils and parents.”

The plans are expected to save the council around £1.5 million in the first five years by reducing the number of more expensive placements at independent or non-maintained schools, often out of borough and with high associated transportation costs.

Conservative councillor Jane Stanford-Beale said: “It’s really great that we are going to have places available in-borough.

“It is not just the cost of sending a child to Tadley Court Or Prior’s Court [special schools in Hampshire and Thatcham].

“It is also the cost to the family. That child may have to be travelling an hour-and-a-half to get to that school.

“Most children want to be playing at home, not sat in a taxi being taken off to school.”

The Avenue Centre will be expanded, refurbished and transferred to The Avenue, which would become responsible for running costs, with office staff moving elsewhere.

The expansion will allow more SEND pupils from Reading to attend a school close to home and in the borough.

Capacity for SEND children at the site would be increased from 175 to 235 pupils.

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The number of pupils with Education Health and Care (EHC) Plans in Reading has increased from 1,282 in Jan 2019 to 1,436 in Jan 2021 and numbers are expected to continue to increase.

The Avenue School has reached its full capacity of 175 students despite having expanded twice already in the last four years.

Other council-run SEND schools, both within the borough and out of borough, are also at full capacity.

Other plans underway to address the gap include a new school in, which will have 75 places for Reading pupils and 75 for Wokingham Borough pupils, and plans for 60 new places at the Avenue Academy School.