PLANS to expand a special school in Oxford have been approved.

The move will see the John Watson School in Wheatley increase in capacity from 91 to 107 places.

The 16 additional places will be in the secondary phase of the school, from September 2022, after the decision was made by Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, cabinet member for education and cultural services, at Oxfordshire County Council, earlier this week.

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It is estimated that the the capital cost of the project is about £3 million, with funding set to come from the Special Provision Fund and S106 developer contributions.

To accommodate the expansion, the council will replace an old relocatable classroom unit with permanent accommodation.

It is expected that building work will be completed by September 2022, enabling the school to increase its secondary intake from this date.

The increase in pupil numbers will secure the long-term provision for sixth form pupils.

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Expansion of the school will also increase equality of opportunity in terms of access to special school places and will make it easier and quicker for pupils to access appropriate education.

In December 2018, the council’s cabinet approved a new Special Educational Needs & Disability Sufficiency of Places Strategy to ensure sufficient school places are provided as the county’s population grows.

Planned, permitted and completed housing development in some of the areas served by the school, including Barton, Benson, Chinnor, Thame and Watlington, is expected to increase demand for places at John Watson.

It was revealed last month that the Orion Academy, a school for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), is set to get a new £12 million building.

The school, built on the site of the former Northfield School in Knights Road, Blackbird Leys, will have capacity for 108 pupils.

Meanwhile, new special schools are planned in Bloxham and Didcot to cater for children with social, emotional and mental health needs.

John Watson School provides places for pupils aged two to 19, with severe learning difficulties (SLD), and profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), and has a ‘good’ rating from Ofsted.