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Site agreed for first social, emotional and mental health needs school

15 May 2023

A much-needed new special school has been given the go-ahead by Richmond Council's Planning Committee. 

The London River Academy will be built on the disused Barnes Hospital site and will provide specialist school places for up to 90 primary and secondary aged children and young people with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs, provided by The Beckmead Trust, a specialist SEMH school provider. Beckmead provides high-quality support for traumatised young people with SEMH needs, autism and challenging behaviour. 

Cllr Penny Frost, Chair of Richmond Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee, said:

“We have seen a significant increase in the prevalence of these specific special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in children and young people over the past five years – around 12% of those with Education, Health and Care Plans have SEMH as their primary need. Developing expertise to support these pupils is a priority and while we have four excellent mainstream, state-funded schools who have specialist resource provisions for these pupils, we do not have a special school specifically for children with more significant SEMH needs. London River Academy will fill a major gap in our local SEND offer. 

“It’s really important that children and young people with special needs have access to good quality education in their home community – this has a significant impact on their long-term outcomes. At the moment, all school places are filled, so some pupils are needing to travel. It is critical we meet increased demand to ensure as many pupils as possible can be educated locally. I’m delighted planning permission has been granted and we can now get on with working with the excellent Beckmead Trust to make London River Academy the outstanding local special school which we have long wished to see open within the borough.”

Dr Jonty Clark, the Chief Executive of The Beckmead Trust, said:

“We are very proud and feel very privileged that we have been chosen to support vulnerable children and young people in Richmond. It’s wonderful that London River Academy has been given the go-ahead and I am grateful for all the support we have received from Richmond Council.

“Our approach is underpinned by a belief in young people and in understanding how they can flourish. We have a strong sense of community, we believe in social justice, and at the centre of our work is a belief that giving and receiving love is essential. 

“We have a highly committed, empathetic and skilled team of staff who care deeply for these children and young people, giving us the right to educate them, so that they can lead successful and confident lives.”

Barnes Hospital site is owned by the South West London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust. It was allocated in the 2018 Local Plan as a site for redevelopment, with the specification that any redevelopment proposal should prioritise the provision of a new special school.

The Beckmead Family of Schools, led by the Beckmead Trust, was rated Outstanding in all categories by Ofsted in its most recent inspection in January 2017. Inspectors said that the school was characterised by “exceptional leadership, management and governance” which had “sustained and improved the quality of teaching”. It also praised staff as “highly skilled in managing pupils’ behaviour” and said “pupils learn outstandingly well”. In all, Beckmead is responsible for 11 schools, either open or in the pipeline to open. 

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Up to: May 2023

Updated: 16 May 2023

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