DECADES of specialist education for disabled children has been offered in Wiltshire, growing from a single school for girls to the three schools now teaching hundreds of children.

Rowdeford, the largest of the current schools, opened in 1963 as a special school for girls under the name of Rowdeford House. It began to provide mixed residential care in the 1990s. Pupil numbers have sharply risen over several decades, from 32 in 1996 to 89 in 2001 and it is now oversubscribed with 135 pupils. One of the main focuses of the school is to involve pupils with the community.

In April this year 11 jobs were made redundant when funding for its residential services was stopped and it became a day school.

St Nicholas in Chippenham opened 20 years ago as a state-of-the-art special school. The school is the smallest of the three and has 74 pupils. It has a hydro pool as well as a new teaching building that opened in 2014 to provide more classroom space.

Larkrise in Trowbridge opened in 1989, has 85 pupils and has facilities for physiotherapy, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy, music therapy, speech and language therapy, sensory integration therapy and aromatherapy. The school provides support for children aged from three-19.

The council has confirmed that education for children aged over 16, currently provided at St Nicholas’s sixth form centre, Poplar College in Cocklebury Road, will continue despite the plans to close the school.

Larkrise School currently also provides education for children over the age of 16, whereas there is no post-16 provision at Rowdeford.

Under new proposals, the super school based on Rowdeford’s site would not have provision for pupils once they reach the age of 16. Instead they would go on to study courses which already exist and will be developed at Wiltshire College for SEND children over the age of 16, or go to Poplar College in Chippenham, which opened in 2014.

Special needs children are required by law, like all youngsters, to stay in education until they are 19 unless they are in work or other training.

Wiltshire Council has described the school buildings at both Larkrise in Trowbridge and St Nicholas in Chippenham as “past their prime, out of date and in need of replacing.”

According to a report detailing the council’s vision for special educational needs in the county, the schools also no longer meet Department for Education guidelines on space and don’t have enough outdoor green areas for children to play and learn in the fresh air.

The council admitted that journey times could increase for children but said that for some, travel times will decrease.

The council said: “This vision is based on three years of consultation with families, schools and communities. It offers a future where we concentrate the best facilities, the best teaching, and the best learning environment in specialist locations.”