PLANS to build a special needs school for almost 200 pupils have been approved and a search is now underway to find an academy trust for it to join.

The much-need new school will be built on the 500-home Wolsey Park development, off Rawreth Lane in Rayleigh, after Essex County Council gave the plans the green light yesterday.

Rayleigh and Wickford Tory MP Mark Francois, has been campaigning for a new special needs school to be built to meet demand and presented the proposals to the county council’s cabinet during the meeting.

Now, an academy trust must be selected to build and run the new school ahead of it opening to pupils in September 2026.

Mr Francois said: “This is really excellent news. I launched the campaign for a new special school only last July and, within a year, we have a site, we have the money and we now have also have formal approval to proceed.

“It’s a victory for special needs pupils and their families and I want to thank both Essex County Council and developer Vistry for backing this vital project so strongly.”

The new school will support 150 pupils on the main site, as well as being linked to a repurposed sixth form annex at Chetwood Primary School, in South Woodham.

The second site will support an additional 40 pupils.

During a consultation with residents in February, almost 95 per cent of 823 people supported the principle of creating the new school.

The facility will be funded via an combination of section 106 contributions and a Department for Education grant.

Councillor Tony Ball, cabinet member for education excellence, lifelong learning and employability, said: “We are committed to helping all children in Essex get the best possible start in life.

“This includes providing access to excellent education in mainstream or special schools.

“The overwhelmingly positive response to the public consultation has demonstrated that this is a much-needed new provision with significant support from the local community.

“I am very pleased that the council has set out its commitment to creating this desperately needed education facility for families in south Essex and I look forward to seeing the project’s progress as we look towards the school opening in September 2026.”

Mr Francois is running as the Tory candidate in the July 4 General Election. Other candidates announced so far are James Hedges (Lab) and Grant Randall (Reform UK) and Christopher Taylor (Green).