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Doubts over future of Gorleston pupil referral unit

PUBLISHED: 10:43 26 November 2010

Fears have been expressed for some of Norfolk’s vulnerable children after Norfolk County Council launched a consultation about the future of its five pupil referral units (PRUs), including one in Gorleston.

The council could shut the permanent bases for children who have been expelled, are at risk of being expelled or who are too ill to attend mainstream schools.

Instead, it wants to set up one “hard to place” base for children who cannot return to school, and a short stay base with three satellites – all at locations yet to be revealed.

The move, planned from September 2011, is predicted to save £213,000 a year and is designed to enable schools to work more closely together to keep higher numbers of children in mainstream schools.

The five PRUs are:

n Southern Area – Elm Road Centre, Thetford.

n Western Area – Field Lane, King’s Lynn

n Eastern Area – Brooklands Centre, Gorleston

n Central Area – Locksley School, Norwich

n Northern Area – Douglas Bader Centre, Coltishall.

Phil Harris, vice-chairman of the governors at Douglas Bader Centre, said the plan did not “put children first – particularly vulnerable children and their families and communities”.

He said: “The impact of the proposal would be to take out or at least drastically reduce Douglas Bader Centre support to a group of schools that extends from Wells to Stalham and inland as far as Dereham and Reepham.”

Alison Thomas, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We want to ensure we are providing the best possible education and support for children who are excluded or are at risk of exclusion and are currently consulting on the best way to deliver this service.

“Our aim is to focus our efforts on the front line, delivering more support to children in school to lower rates of exclusion. This will mean we can reduce costs and review the use of our premises to ensure we are delivering a service that provides the best value for money and the best support to children who are most in need.” She said the changes would allow schools to “help prevent exclusion”, which was “in the best interests of the children”.

To take part in the consultation, go to www.schools.norfolk.gov.uk and click on “finance” then “fair funding”.

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