Image: Ben Summer

Whitchurch school could expand services for pupils with additional needs

The city’s biggest Specialist Resource Base might be getting bigger

WHITCHURCH High School’s capacity for students with severe and complex learning needs could be about to expand by about a third.

Cardiff Council has launched a consultation on increasing the capacity of the school’s Specialist Resource Base from 70 pupils to 100.

SRBs provide extra support to children with additional learning needs within a mainstream school. Whitchurch High School’s is the largest in the city.

Sian Hopkins, chair of the school’s governing body, said: “The Governors at Whitchurch High School fully support the proposed increase.

“The SRB is an important and much-valued part of Whitchurch High School and shared activities and learning enriches the experiences of everyone at the school.”

The expansion would enhance the school’s inclusive teaching, reduce the distance that pupils in northern Cardiff have to travel to access specialist provision, and provide employment for additional specialist staff, according to the council’s consultation document.

Governors have also requested additional resources, including counselling spaces and external play facilities, to match the increase.

They also said they are used to accommodating a higher number of students in the SRB. Although the unit’s stated capacity is 70, it had 96 learners on record in October 2021.

In Estyn’s 2016 report on Whitchurch High School, inspectors said: “In the specialist resource base, staff know their pupils well and provide appropriate learning opportunities for them.

“[The SRB] offers an appropriate and stimulating environment designed to match the needs of the pupils who use the facility.”

The possible downsides are a small increase in traffic near the school, and the potential disruption to children who are unsettled by the building changing, which could be managed by staff.

Capacities of special schools and SRBs in Cardiff – Whitchurch has the highest capacity of all mainstream schools (Image: Cardiff Council)

The decision reflects the five-year action plan published in 2018 by the Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Integrated Health and Social Care Partnership, which includes Cardiff Council and various health and care representatives.

The plan’s aims were to improve provision for children and young people with additional learning needs and improve access to support services.

The consultation document states that increasing SRB provision would not affect the standards of education at the school, or on teaching and learning experiences, overall.

The Education Endowment Foundation, a charity looking to close the gap in attainment for disadvantaged children, makes recommendations for special educational needs in mainstream schools. These include complementing group teaching with smaller-group and one-to-one sessions – services that SRBs can provide.

Members of the public can offer their views on the consultation by filling in the form, emailing, or writing to School Organisation Planning, Room 401, County Hall, Atlantic Wharf, Cardiff, CF10 4UW.

The consultation closes on Tuesday, February 1.