WILTSHIRE Council today confirmed that three special schools are to merge to create a centre of excellence for children with special needs at Rowde, near Devizes.

Rowdeford School on the outskirts of the village will have £20 million spent on it to create a base for 350 children aged from three to 16. But when the school opens in five years time it will be given a new name and will be run by an academy trust.

Today Terence Herbert, the corporate director for children and communities, said he was excited about the project and promised the new school would gain an outstanding rating from Ofsted as it became not just the best in the south west but in the whole country.

But under the plan the sites of both St Nicholas School in Chippenham and Larkrise in Trowbridge would be sold off. Andrew Murrison the MP for South West Wiltshire was briefed on the changes on Friday and immediately tweeted his opposition.

All three schools have been waging a campaign to survive since May when Wiltshire Council went public on a scheme to create more school places for youngsters with special educational needs and revealed it was considering creating one big school.

At Rowdeford head Mike Loveridge promised to fight to save his school and a petition was launched and quickly gained huge support.

He is urged everyone who cares about the school to write to their MPs, Wiltshire councillors and people of influence.

He said at the time: "If a decision is made to close the school and I have not done everything I possibly can to save it I will feel I have let people down."

Today Laura Mayes the cabinet member for children's services said: "The unique atmosphere of Rowdeford and its grounds was one of the reasons for us deciding to make it the base for the new school."

The vision for the new school is being led by Mr Herbert who said: "After three years of consultation with families, schools and communities, Wiltshire Council is proposing a vision of two schools which will be centres of excellence for children and young people with SEND in Wiltshire – at Rowdeford near Devizes and Exeter House, Salisbury.

"The purpose-built and amply equipped schools will address the need for an additional 220 SEND places for Wiltshire.

"Within these proposals St Nicholas school, Chippenham and Larkrise school in Trowbridge will be kept open until we open the new school, expected in September 2023. The proposals will be taken to cabinet on 27 November 2018 before further consultation with parents, families and schools."

He said the central position of Rowdeford and its large site made it the right choice for the new school.

Cllr Mayes said: “We have put our pupils at the heart of our proposals on how we provide SEND education in Wiltshire. This vision means we concentrate on providing our pupils with the best facilities, the best teaching and the best learning environment where they can thrive. We can apply our expertise and experience in greater strength with greater purpose across Wiltshire.

“We are grateful to all those who responded to our consultation and helped inform this vision. We know that this will mean change for children and young people, but the new schools and resources will offer high quality provision, building on the excellent community support and engagement in Rowde and Salisbury. This new vision is about providing a better education and experience for all children and young people with SEND.”

Wiltshire Council has also pledged that the new school at Rowdeford will provide more outreach services for other schools needing support for children with special needs.