ST HELENS Council has drawn up plans for the £6.8m redevelopment of a maintained special school at the former Red Bank unit site.

Back in September, cabinet members had approved proposals to relocate Penkford Special School in Wharf Road, Newton-le-Willows, to the former Red Bank education unit site.

Red Bank Community Home housed some of the country’s most notorious criminals, such Jon Venables, one of James Bulger’s killers, in its secure unit for juveniles.

The facility, along with its education unit, was closed in June 2014, which left Red Bank Schools Limited with a large, redundant, purpose-built facility.

In January 2019, cabinet approved a series of measures in relation to the potential development of the Red Bank site.

Subject to planning approval and authorisation from the Charity Commission, a modern building would be constructed to improve the educational experience of some of the borough’s most vulnerable pupils that have a range of social, emotional or mental health issues.

Alternative options had been considered including other locations or rebuilding Penkford School on its current site. However, the development of the Red Bank educational offers the opportunity to increase places from 55 to 65 and create a more therapeutic learning environment to support young people to improve their emotional wellbeing, promote independent self-regulation, and build relationships and positive social interaction.

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St Helens Borough Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and business, Cllr Kate Groucutt: “As a council we are committed to ensuring that all children can have their educational needs met in a supportive environment with buildings and facilities that are fit for purpose.

“Pupils at Penkford face considerable challenges in life and they need and deserve a better environment which will support them and help them to thrive as we look to achieve one of our key priorities of ensuring all children and young people in St Helens Borough have the best possible start in life.

"The relocation of the school will also allow us to make further improvements to the area around Sankey Valley and the Nine Arches. Following significant investment in recent years, the area is now a popular walking and cycling destination for people from Newton-le-Willows and further afield."

If planning consent is given, work on the new school is expected to start in the summer of 2021.