Essex County Council is set to allocate more than £300million for creating about 13,000 school places as part of its ambitious new budget.
The council already has a strong track record of investment in school places, having spent millions of pounds creating more than 5,500 new places across the county during the last two academic years.
About 2,200 more are due to be available from September, with a series of school expansion projects across Essex set to be completed.
Despite the financial challenges it faces, the authority has reiterated its commitment to ensuring the county has sufficient places to meet the rising demand by putting forward plans to spend a further £315milllion.
The £315million includes up to £85million which will be spent on creating more than 400 new special school places across Essex – £42million of which has been allocated by the Essex Schools Forum and £43million of Essex County Council capital funding.
The record investment in special school places comes amid an increase in the number of young people in the county being diagnosed with autism and a growing demand for special school places.
In addition to the funding for special needs, £230million will also be spent on new mainstream school places over the next three years, enabling the council to create 7,200 primary and 5,400 secondary places by September 2019.
The county council is also continuing to work with developers and district, borough and city councils to ensure housing developers help fund school projects.
Cllr Ray Gooding, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “We are committed to ensuring young people in Essex receive the best possible education and their individual needs are met.
“Our strong track record in investing in new school places has meant the vast majority of pupils have continued to be offered a place at one of their parents’ preferred schools.
“It is very important that investment continues and I am delighted we are planning to spend about £315million over the coming years on creating thousands more school places across the county.”
Cllr John Spence, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “Since 2013/14 we have spent about £135million on creating new school places and are now planning to commit a further £315million.
“We are carefully specifying these projects to ensure the best learning environment for our young people.
“This latest investment will see major new schools developed in Chelmsford, Colchester and Great Dunmow, as well as various expansion projects across the county.
“The new Special Education Needs network of schools will rank among the best in the whole of England.
“Despite bringing resources from government and housing developers, we will incur a significant drain on our capital and revenue budgets and we will continue to lobby government for a change in the system.”
Essex County Council’s budget, including its capital programme, will be finalised at the Full Council meeting on Tuesday, 14 February.