Earlston or Gala site for complex needs centre

THE chair of Scottish Borders Council’s social work committee says there is still a lot of work to be done before a new £1.5million centre for children with complex needs comes to fruition, writes Kenny Paterson.

Frances Renton said the central educational resource project was moving forward as councillors heard the facility would be built at either the old Earlston High School or a yet-to-be-confirmed site in Galashiels.

Councillor Renton told TheSouthern: “There are a couple of potential sites being looked at, but I would say there is still a lot of work to be done.”

In her review of the current facilities, SBC’s head of integrated children’s services Stella Everingham said there are concerns that provision for complex needs youngsters in the region was “limited”.

Presently, services for primary schoolchildren are located in St Ronan’s Primary in Innerleithen and Wilton Primary in Hawick, with Howdenburn Schoolhouse in Jedburgh also used.

However, others are forced to travel outwith the Borders in order to receive education because of the lack of adequate facilities, believed to cost the council up to £150,000 each per year. Mrs Everingham added: “The (new) centre will offer a service that will reduce the number of children who access very specialist provision out of the Scottish Borders and prevent the need for children to be educated outside of the authority.

“There is significant practitioner expertise within SBC in supporting pupils with complex needs, but provision for these pupils is currently compromised by the quality of available accommodate/physical infrastructure.”

Councillor Renton agreed with Mrs Everingham’s views.

She hopes a central hub could lead to better integration of youngsters with specific needs into mainstream education.

She told us: “There is a number of children with complex needs educated outwith the Borders and the building of this new facility would bring children back into the region.

“There is potential for integration into the mainstream education system through a centre resource.

“That is not suitable for all children, but is certainly something I would like to see more of.”

As for the financial implications, Councillor Renton believed the new facility could save SBC cash in the long term.

“If you look at the cost of, for example, a taxi from Selkirk to Edinburgh, that is a lot of money,” she said. “This project would offset that.”

SBC says capital funding for the project has been secured through the successful application of a project outline business case to enable “build/refurbishment of the appropriate property to house a specialist provision”.

Another report on a suitable location for the centre will be presented at March’s social work committee meeting.