New centre in Dagenham will support pupils with Asperger’s

A Dagenham primary school has become the first in the borough to offer specialised education for pupils with Asperger’s syndrome.

It follows concerns over the lack of specialist places in Barking and Dagenham for young children with the autism spectrum disorder – a shortage which has led to a number of pupils having to travel to Colchester.

Monteagle Primary School, in Burnham Road, opened the Additionally Resourced Provision (ARP) this month and was due to welcome its first pupil yesterday.

The plans were officially rubber stamped by councillors at a cabinet meeting last night.

Children diagnosed with Asperger’s will spend around 50 per cent of their lesson time at the unit, where they will be taught by specially-trained staff, while the rest of the time will be spent in mainstream lessons.

Assistant head of the school, Laura McClelland, will head the department. She told the Post: “We will be teaching the national curriculum but there will be an emphasis on communication.

“People with Asperger’s usually have an IQ that is average or above average but can struggle socially, so that is something we will focus on.”

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According to a report put before members a number of Barking and Dagenham primary school pupils with Asperger’s and other autism disorders are being forced to travel to Colchester to receive specialist education because of the lack of provisions in the borough.

Out-of-borough placements costs the authority between �35,000 to �50,000 per pupil. The start up and running costs of the Monteagle ARP for this academic year will be around �187,500, and the annual running costs thereafter will be �150,000.

There are two ARP provisions for pupils with autism at Barking and Dagenham secondary schools.

Dagenham special needs school, Trinity, offers specialist support for autistic primary school pupils but is at full capacity.