Up to three hundred new pupils will be accommodated by the expansion of Robert Blake Science College once it takes over Elmwood special school’s former campus buildings.
Somerset County Council has approved the Robert Blake Science college proposal to acquire the soon-to-be-vacated buildings and facilities of Elmwood special school as the latter will move to a new facility within town.
Elmwood special school will vacate its premises and transfer to a new 160-place facility located in a bespoke area of Bower Lane near a hospital. The school is specially built for students having special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Due to the transfer, existing pupils from Penrose School, another special school under the Elmwood & Penrose Federation, will now be housed in the same facility as with Elmwood.
The county council decision gives Robert Blake Science College to have a free hand in repurposing the vacated facilities to house 300 additional pupils efficiently.
According to council member Liz Smith, the new places will not be allowed to house an additional 300 new pupils at once, but a gradual increase is planned depending on the demand. The current capacity of Robert Blake Science College is set at 900 and will be increased by 194 to 210 pupils per year after the transfer of Elmwood special school.
Robert Blake Science College was given a “needs improvement” rating in December 2019 by the state-run Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted).
Normally, schools with low ratings are not allowed to undertake expansion to prevent an increase in teacher and pupil ratio and thus difficulty in raising standards. However, the council reportedly gave an exemption to the science college as there are currently no other options to ensure continued delivery of educational facilities in Bridgwater.
Educational facilities demand is projected to increase as a result of an increased population due to ongoing housing developments in Kingsdown, Stockmoor, and Wilstock.
Bridgwater College Academy on Parkway already received an additional 300 places, and the expansion of coeducational Chilton Trinity School good for an additional 150 pupils could be finished in the coming years.