Plans for new multimillion-pound school sites and children’s homes for those with complex behavioural needs have been outlined to councillors in County Durham.
Durham County Council’s Cabinet has been updated on the authority’s 2022/23 budget proposals and Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) forecasts, after details of the Local Government settlement figures were revealed in December.
The MTFP provides resources to allow the council to deliver on its priorities and to respond to and recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The existing strategy aligns with the council’s vision for 2035, which sets out three broad ambitions for the people of County Durham: more and better jobs, people live long and independent lives, and connected communities.
Investment in children and young people’s services outlined for the next two financial years includes £15million to rebuild Belmont Community School and Belmont C of E Primary School on the existing site. A new, innovative design has been developed to make better use of the site, providing a shared campus facility. The development will leave both schools better equipped for a projected increase in pupil numbers.
Over £6.9 million has been allocated to create a new building to replace the existing Ox Close Primary and Oxclose Nursery schools, both in Spennymoor. Once open, the site will have capacity for 630 pupils and 52 full-time equivalent nursery places.
An investment of £1.1 million in each of the next two financial years is earmarked for the council’s Children’s Homes Sufficiency Strategy, which will see the development of seven new smaller children’s homes, which can each accommodate up to two children who have complex behaviours. This initial £2.2 million investment will allow the programme to progress to the next stage.
The council expects to receive a £5.5 million Government to maintain and improve the condition of school buildings, while money from a £1.2 million capital grant will be allocated to individual schools for investment in infrastructure.
And the special educational needs or disability (SEND) service will replace its IT system, providing more effective management information and improved service efficiency at a cost of £350,000 over the next two financial years.
Cllr Ted Henderson, the council’s Cabinet member for children and young people, said: “We know how important it is to invest in our children and young people in order to give them the best start in life. That is why we are allocating funding to create new schools, improve existing sites and offering more provision for an expected increase in pupil numbers.
“Our aim is that this investment plan will help in producing better outcomes for pupils of all ages, making a real difference to their education and lives which have understandably been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The plan will also provide the highest possible care for our children and support them to remain living in their local communities through the investment in expansion of our children’s home capacity.”