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One school's joy is another's grief

PUBLISHED: 18:42 10 July 2008 | UPDATED: 11:22 03 July 2010

'ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED': Hillside First School headteacher Christine Bryant

'ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED': Hillside First School headteacher Christine Bryant

Miles Jermy

A CLOUD lifted from some of the areas most vulnerable children with the news that a centre for special needs pupils had been saved from closure.

The decision was a victory for parents and teachers at Hillside First School in Bradwell who took part in a determined campaign to keep the unit open.

A CLOUD lifted from some of the areas most vulnerable children with the news that a centre for special needs pupils had been saved from closure.

The decision was a victory for parents and teachers at Hillside First School in Bradwell who took part in a determined campaign to keep the unit open.

Education bosses had recommended the closure of the facility before announcing a review of the proposal in April.

But there was no reprieve for the special educational needs unit at North Denes Middle in Great Yarmouth, which will close next year.

As a result of the decision there will now be just one centre in the Acle school cluster instead of the two originally proposed.

Hillside head Christine Bryant told the Mercury she was “absolutely delighted” that the school's centre had been reprieved.

“After I was told that our unit would close I raised concerns that there would be no provision for early years children with special needs in the Great Yarmouth area,” she said.

“My concerns were backed by parents, borough councillors, head teachers and special needs support workers.

“It has been a very stressful time, particularly for staff within the unit. However, they have been very careful to keep their concerns and anxieties hidden from the children so the children have not been affected.”

Children attending the unit, rated excellent in its most recent Ofsted report, have a variety of special needs including autism, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), epilepsy, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy.

It will become a specialist resource base offering focusing on specific learning, behavioural or emotional difficulties.

There was disappointment at North Denes Middle after head Nancy Heywood received the news that centre at the school would close.

She said: “I am very upset, children this side of the river are being let down and the expertise we have here to help them is being cast aside.

“Pupils with special needs will have to be supported by individual support in class and it will not be of the quality of provision that they are expecting.

“The unit is also used to help our low ability pupils and children from John Grant School.

“Staffing levels will have to be reduced when the centre closes, we will probably lose a teacher and a member of the learning support team.

It is still to be decided where the special educational needs facility in the Acle area will be located.

The original proposal was for one at Lingwood Junior School and another at Acle High.

Lingwood Junior head Jan Tanner said: “I am surprised by the decision, but it was obviously agreed that this was the best compromise.

“There is only so much money to go round and there is a lot of need in Great Yarmouth, but that is the case here too.”

Pupil numbers at John Grant Special School are forecast to rise from 120 to 164 as a result of the changes over the next few years.

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