A councillor has slammed other local authorities for “piggybacking” off the council’s multi-million pound planned expansion of a Wokingham school for children with special educational needs (SEN).

The authority’s top branch has approved a £4.4m expansion to Addington School in Woodley in order to increase its capacity by 50 places, subject to planning permission being granted.

A report indicated that 35 of Addington’s pupils are not from the borough, while 133 children with SEN who are from the borough are educated at schools run by other local authorities.

And councillor Anthony Pollock, executive member for finance at Wokingham Borough Council, said: “The fact we are selling our places to other local authorities is awful”.

Before the council approved the investment, he added: “Other people are piggybacking off the back of it.

“I urge us to speak to those who can change this situation.

“It is fine if we invest and it improves us but not when it stuffs us.”

A council report explained that parents from other local authorities can ask that Addington School is listed as a school option for their child in their education and health care plans.

And despite the report stating that “there is a clear interest for the council to protect any investment for additional special school places for Wokingham borough residents” it also made clear that WBC authority can only refuse places for children with SEN who reside outside of the borough if there was “very good grounds” to do so.

The council spends £18m a year on supporting children with SEN in Wokingham, and a lack of local spaces combined with high costs for transporting children with SEN to other schools outside the borough means the authority anticipates a £2.3m deficit in this area for the 2018/2019 financial year.

In addition to the £4.4m investment in Addington School, the council’s top branch also approved to develop proposals for another special free school in the borough for children with autism and social emotional and mental health difficulties, as well as improved accomodation at the Foundry College and measures to support the retention of children in mainstream schools.

It is anticipated that another 125 places will be needed for SEN children by 2023 after a surge in the 0-25 population in the coming years.

This means the number of Wokingham borough children at special schools would increase from 339 to 464 in the next four years.

Addington School currently provides places for 206 children.

The proposed expansion, which is expected to mean building inside the existing Addington School site, as well as placing new buildings on the existing car park and ball courts, would be in place by the start of the 2020/2021 academic year.

Although the report states that these expansions would be “technically contrary to planning policy”, it also outlined that the council is confident of gaining support from the community after an engagement event before a planning application is submitted.

Seven additional full time teachers and 26 support staff posts would be created as a result of the expansion.

The measures were approved by councillors at a meeting of the executive on Thursday, January 31.