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Future uncertain for special needs

PUBLISHED: 15:27 03 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:47 03 July 2010

PARENTS and teachers are hoping the new term will bring good news for some of the area's most vulnerable children.

The future of closure threatened centres for special needs pupils at North Denes Middle, in Great Yarmouth, and Hillside First School, in Bradwell, is likely to become clearer in the next few weeks.

PARENTS and teachers are hoping the new term will bring good news for some of the area's most vulnerable children.

The future of closure threatened centres for special needs pupils at North Denes Middle, in Great Yarmouth, and Hillside First School, in Bradwell, is likely to become clearer in the next few weeks.

There has been fierce opposition to plans to shut the two centres for children with severe learning difficulties and replace them with units in Acle and Lingwood.

A final decision is likely in the summer and campaigners hope there is still time to change education bosses minds.

The proposals are currently being examined in a feasibility study carried out by Norfolk County Council with reports due to be issued to the review panel in July and Cabinet in August.

Hillside headteacher Christine Bryant has been at the forefront of the fight to save the centre rated as outstanding in the school's most recent report from the education standards watchdog Ofsted. She said: “These vulnerable children often get overlooked and if the changes go through they will not have the specialised education they desperately need.

“I am concerned there will be no provision for early years children in the borough and it seems quite a distance to have go to Lingwood.

“It is ludicrous our unit is being considered for closure it has been open for 29 years there are staff with more than 20 years' experience who have developed skills that other teachers don't have."

There are five children at the centre in North Denes with conditions including autism and global learning delay. Chairman of governors Patricia Hollis said Yarmouth is a deprived area and there are many children with great needs.

“There are about 13 children expected to be at the unit in September and it is shocking there could be no provision for them. We have had an SEN base for many years it would be a great shame if this was taken away and the county council needs to think very carefully before making this decision."

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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