PROPOSALS to open a sixth form at a special school have been approved.

Last year, Blackburn with Darwen Council went out to consultation on the plan to extend Crosshill Special School in Haslingden Road to 19 year olds.

The school, which shares a site with Blackburn Central High School, will increase in age range from 11-16 years to 11-19 years and take on an extra 30 pupils as part of a staggered expansion from September 2018 to September 2020.

The Haslingden Road facility currently teaches youngsters aged 11 to 16 with learning difficulties and disabilities.

The increase in the age range will be undertaken in increments with the first lot of Year 12 students starting from September 1 as the age range increases to 11-17 with an extra 10 learners in year 12.

The following year, the age range will go up again to 11-18 with 10 pupils in year 12 and a further 10 in year 14.

Finally, September 2020 would see the completion of the expansion with an age range of 11-19 made up of 10 pupils in years 12, 13 and 14.

Funding for the expansion at Crosshill, which is currently rated good by education inspectorate Ofsted, will come from an education grant which brings in £10,000 per pupil and an extra £2,900 per student in top-up funding.

Approving the proposal, executive member for schools and education, Cllr Dave Harling, said: "The expanded facility will be based at the school's current site, as well as Shadsworth Hub where Crosshill currently provides life skills development work.

"The learners within the post 16 provision will gain access to the therapeutic environment and expertise already implemented within Crosshill Special School.

"The emphasis of the post-16 provision is to provide learners with the skills that they need to become as successful as they are able to be in terms of independence, further education, life skills, employment and living a good quality adult life with an emphasis on the contribution they can "bring to their local community.

The curriculum and course offer will be developed to meet the personalised and specific progression needs of the individual learner but, in the main, it will centre on a semi-formal curriculum offer based around life skills, independent living and therapy based support.

"The focus will also be on providing substantial vocational elements with supported work experience.

"Approval and implementation of this proposal will provide increased choice and progression for learners aged 16-19 with special educational needs within Blackburn with Darwen.

"The proposal will increase the choice for post 16 learners influenced by parental demand."

A school spokesman said: "We have considered all of the responses and still firmly believe that extending the age range to 19 and offering a post-16 provision will be within the best interests for our learners and the local community.

"We believe this type of offer will allow learners to remain in good quality post-16 provision up until the age of 19 (if required) within their local community and Blackburn with Darwen and limit the need to go out of borough to gain this.

"The support for this has been overwhelming and we believe that the impact on local colleges and other post-16 providers within Blackburn with Darwen is minimal. We also hope by opening this provision it will allow us all to extend our expertise and to support our local

community in addressing and meeting the statutory requirements associated with the introduction of Educational Health Care Plans and the wider agenda behind them."