Harrow will have its first new special school in more than 20 years after the Department for Education (DfE) approved plans.

The school at 265 The Ridgeway – a site now owned by Harrow Council – will provide 292 places for children aged 4 to 19 with severe learning difficulties and autism.

The DfE last week approved the council’s bid for a new Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) school - having rejected three previous applications.

The council claims the new school will bring "significant benefits" both to families in the borough, and in reducing the cost of transport and education places outside Harrow.

There are currently four special schools in Harrow, with just under 500 places between them, but over the past five years the borough has seen a 55% increase in the number of young people with education, health and care plans.

SEND places are also provided in Harrow’s mainstream schools, but limited places mean some children with additional needs currently have to attend special schools outside the borough.

Harrow Council leader Cllr Paul Osborn said: “We’ve been working towards this moment for many years – it’s truly amazing news for our borough. This decision enables us to deliver something truly life-changing – a great facility that will benefit kids and young people in Harrow for decades to come.”

The number of SEND places has increased by 84 since 2019, according to the council, with additional provision created at Pinner Wood, Stanburn, and Grange Primary Schools, as well as Belmont and Kingsley High School. It recently approved plans to provide an additional 30 places at Alexandra School – one of the borough’s four existing special schools.

However, more places are needed, with the council left struggling to fulfil its legal requirement to provide enough SEND places. 

The average cost of placing a SEND pupil outside the borough is an estimated £70,000 to £80,000, compared to around £32,000 in the borough. Alexandra School is anticipated to save the council up to £1.3 million a year, with a further £210,000 saved on transport.

Harrow’s cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Hitesh Karia, said: “Parents often tell me about the challenges they face – this new school will provide invaluable support to them and their children. We are going further with special needs places. I am also pleased that we approved additional SEND places at Alexandra School. Both are fantastic achievements that show our commitment to put residents first and support those most in need.”