A feasibility study is to be carried out by Highland Council to look at the possibility of raising funding for specialist autism provision through developer contributions.
The proposal came from Inverness South councillor Andrew Jarvie against a controversial backdrop of the council’s ongoing review of its Additional Special Needs (ASN) provision.
Mr Jarvie told yesterday’s full council meeting in Inverness that while he welcomed the review, he felt that expanding the provision of specialist education in Highland was one thing left to consider.
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He said current provision often saw children being sent hundreds of miles away out of authority, with placements generally only available to 11 year olds and over.
“You have a substantial number of school years which are being missed out because of that.
“It will take some time to work this through, we need to look at what level the contribution should be charged at, if at all, what is the demand, where would it be, how would it be delivered and resourced, which is why I am calling for a feasibility study.”
Former head teacher councillor Graham Mackenzie said he supported the idea with caveats.
He said: “I would rather this had come forward after the ASN review so we could work together and go forward.
“Developer contributions are raised mainly in Inverness, but there are special needs in where there is less development. We can’t conflate the two issues.”
Autism campaigner Sylvia Mackenzie said she was cautiously pleased about the outcome, adding: “I’m not going to let go until the school is actually built.”
Councillor Jarvie said: “I am delighted that the council has agreed to this today, this is the first block to starting to get the funding in place to meet whatever need will be identified shortly by the ASN provision report.
“Success is different for everyone, so what is most important is that there is as much of range of support and school places as possible. With the right education, children flourish.
“I have heard of some of the most heartwarming stories for children who have gotten the right support in school or right placement. But there are just too many where it has not worked.”