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Special needs care facing cuts

PUBLISHED: 19:20 24 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:20 03 July 2010

Miles Jermy

A question mark hangs over the schooling of some of the area's most vulnerable children following a controversial special educational needs review.

Centres for special needs pupils at North Denes Middle in Great Yarmouth and Hillside First School in Bradwell have been recommended for closure in the review conducted for Norfolk County Council.

A question mark hangs over the schooling of some of the area's most vulnerable children following a controversial special educational needs review.

Centres for special needs pupils at North Denes Middle in Great Yarmouth and Hillside First School in Bradwell have been recommended for closure in the review conducted for Norfolk County Council.

They would be replaced with facilities at Lingwood and Acle where there are currently no centres for children with severe learning difficulties. The proposals were discussed at a meeting last week and are due to be considered again before the end of the month with a final decision likely in July.

North Denes head Nancy Heywood is highly critical of the plans that she believes will lead to children from socially deprived areas losing out.

“Places are being taken from the areas where the need is greatest and means that children who would have come here may have to travel to Acle or Lingwood,” she said.

“If these changes go ahead there will be no primary school places for children with special needs in north Yarmouth.

“The idea is to bring facilities closer to where they are needed, but it seems there has been a of lack forethought.

“We have not been given a clear reason why the unit has to close, but it has nothing to do with the quality of our teaching provision.

“I don't know if the centre will stay open for the children that are already here because we might not have the funding to support the facility. They would then need more one-to-one support in mainstream classes.”

There are currently five children in the centre, with conditions including autism and global learning delay.

A further 12 parents have approached the school about admitting their children to centre in September.

All three members of staff - two teachers and a learning support assistant - have been told their jobs will be safe as a result of the changes.

Learning support inclusion officer Margaret Bissell said: “There is a huge gap for special needs provision for children and their families in Yarmouth.

“The children thrive here, their reading and writing comes on in leaps and bounds and develop social skills they would not acquire at a special school.

“Their self esteem rises as we have a high level of expectation and they respond positively to that.”

Last week's Mercury reported the fight by parents and teachers to save the special educational needs centre at Hillside First.

It followed the results of the review that is recommending the number of specialist unit places in east Norfolk is cut from 146 to 64.

John Grant School at Caister would increase its number of places from 110 to 126 for children and young people with special educational needs aged two to 19.

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: “No decisions have yet been taken about the future of North Denes and Hillside and we are currently reviewing the recommendations for the eastern area.

“We are planning to create new specialist resource bases in Acle and Lingwood as there is currently no specialist educational needs provision to the west of the eastern area.

“The SEN review is aimed at ensuring provision is more fairly distributed across the county to reduce the amount of time some children have to travel to access education.

“Each of these SRBs will specialise in a particular area of SEN, and will thereby improve access to specialist services which may currently only be available elsewhere in the county or outside of the county.”

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