Words: Richard Beecham
A much-loved council-run learning centre for young adults could soon move to a £10m permanent home.
The Vine provides adult education for people with special educational needs who are aged 19-25, and could move to a permanent purpose-built building after more than eight years in exile.
The Vine’s original site at the Blenheim building in South Leeds closed down in 2012, along with the West Leeds Learning Centre, and the facilities had to move to temporary accommodation at the Queenswood Education Centre on the border of Kirkstall and Headingley.
But a document to be discussed by Leeds City Council’s Executive Board next week will look into the possibility of rebuilding the centre, as the numbers of young people needing the kinds of services it provides are “growing within the city”.
The document states:
“The Queenswood Education Centre is not well suited to the needs of learners with such complex special educational needs. Further remediation work to the current building could only be superficial and would not meet the needs of all the learners or allow for growth.
“It has been the intention to house the Vine in modern, purpose built accommodation since 2016. A time-limited opportunity has arisen to create a purpose built facility on a spur of land on the same building site as a new secondary school development.
“The spur of land is owned by the council and has no commercial value but is sufficient for the building of accommodation suitable for the Vine.”
It added that the annual cost of borrowing the £10.8m to build the new centre would be £374,000 per year.
The document concluded: “Our ambition is to be a compassionate city with a strong economy. As a vibrant and successful city we aspire to be inclusive and to support and protect our most vulnerable children and young people.
“This proposal supports the local authority’s statutory duty to meet the further education needs of young people aged 19-25 with complex special educational needs who have an Education Heath and Care Plan.
“The alternative to new premises for local provision is increasing private out of area provision. This not only limits the choice and control of young people with complex special educational needs and their families but can also lead to separation of young people from their family and community with significant risk to long term, even life-long, residential out of area placement. This option is also financially costly and has not been shown to improve outcomes.”
It added that new, purpose-built premises are needed to make sure the authority is able to meet its legal obligation to provide specialist learning places for after 2021.
Members of Leeds City Council’s Executive Board will meet to discuss the early plans on Wednesday, December 16. Read the council’s report here.