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Calls for special needs re-think

PUBLISHED: 15:16 24 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:56 03 July 2010

Miles Jermy

EDUCATION bosses are being urged to change their minds over plans for the future of some of the areas most vulnerable children.

A re-think is already under way about proposals to shut centres for special needs pupils at North Denes Middle in Great Yarmouth and Hillside First School in Bradwell.

EDUCATION bosses are being urged to change their minds over plans for the future of some of the areas most vulnerable children.

A re-think is already under way about proposals to shut centres for special needs pupils at North Denes Middle in Great Yarmouth and Hillside First School in Bradwell.

The review was announced earlier this year after the two centres were recommended for closure and replaced by facilities in Lingwood and Acle.

Weeks of anxious waiting for parents and teachers still lie ahead with a final decision likely in the summer.

Hillside Head Christine Bryant said: “I am heartened by all the support we have received, the issue of special educational needs provision is being looked at again and it is a case of hoping for the best.

“It must be positive that the issue is being reconsidered and the unit is full for this September after we were told we could take new children.”

Reassurances have been given that existing pupils will be able to remain for the time they were due to be there.

The result of the feasibility study being carried out by Norfolk County Council is due to be announced in July.

Head teachers were due to meet this week with governors and education officials at Edward Worlledge Middle School to discuss the issue.

North Denes head Nancy Heywood is also hopeful that her school's learning support centre can be reprieved.

“We have got the staff and facilities in place so are hopeful that the decision will be reversed,” she said.

“Our school is in area and often these very vulnerable children are not getting the support they need at home.

“If the closure goes ahead there will be no specialist primary provision for special needs pupils in north Yarmouth.

“It seems the wrong way round make young children travel out of the area and send them back when they move to secondary school.”

Mrs Heywood told the Mercury that it was possible that Hillside learning support centre could be saved and her school's shut.

Hillside is due to become a primary and North Denes a junior school in September as part of the borough wide school's reorganisation.

Speaking at this week's Great Yarmouth Area Committee meeting SEN strategy manager Michael Bateman said there were three options - to close the centres at Hillside and North Denes; retain them and abandon plans for units in Acle and Lingwood; or keep the centres open and develop new facilities.

The three year consultation started in January last year and is recommending the number of specialist units places in east Norfolk is cut 146 to 64. John Grant Special School in Caister would increase its number of places from 110 to 126 for children and young people with special educational needs aged two to 19.

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