The County Council has speeded up the
the implementation of the SEN Development Plan
and is now holding consultations on the future of
SEN Provision in both Cheltenham and Tewkesbury
The situation in Cheltenham is quite complicated as Belmont and Betteridge Special Schools share a Campus with Bournside Comprehensive and there are a variety of proposals looking at how the schools could be combined together in different ways. Reading between the lines two things appear clear:
- The Council appears to be in favour of a solution, that would merge together Belmont and Betteridge Schools to create a school similar to The Milestone School in Gloucester.
- All proposals indicate a reduction in the level of specialist MLD provision.
At this point in time we have not received any feedback from consultation meetings at any of these schools.
Mainstream and Special School
united in opposition to proposals
Aydin Önaç Head Teacher at Tewkesbury School is furious about the County Councils failure to consult him regarding the proposals for the future of Alderman Knight School. Following a meeting with Ieuan Walsh Head Teacher at Alderman Knight to discus the 5 options put forward by the LEA they have issued a joint letter to parents of pupils at both schools and plans are in hand to consult with primary schools in the area.
They state only option 1, which the Education Portfolio holder has already ruled out would be acceptable. The other options are unacceptable as they would lead to:
- the immediate or stealth closure of Alderman Knight School by reduction of pupil number to unviable levels.
- a significant influx of pupils with learning difficulties into Tewkesbury School without necessary resources; this will make classroom management very difficult and will affect academic standards.
The letter continues:
Gloucestershire LEA currently makes a wide range of a mainstream educational provision - Schools with Special Status (e.g. Technology Colleges), Beacon Schools, Comprehensives, Grammar Schools, Special Schools ,,, Alderman Knight is a shining example of a mainstream school which gives excellent education - both academically and socially - to children with moderate learning difficulties and other complex problems. It is highly regarded by both parents and students and is a huge asset to Tewkesbury; we should preserve it.
They are proposing a 6th option:
Alderman Knight continues as a Special School and Centre of Excellence for children with moderate learning difficulties (mld).
It also continues, as at present to cater for some children with severe or complex difficulties or those with a combination of problems.
Alderman Knight also provides support for children with mld from the Primary sector by becoming an outreach centre.
This corresponds almost exactly to the model the GSSPL has put forward for all areas and we urge all parents to support this recommendation during the consultation period, whether or not the LEA publishes this as an option.
Alderman Knight Consultation
A packed meeting at Alderman Knight school listened politely to Executive Director of Education Jo Davidson and Head of SEN Stephen Huggett explain the consultation process and the options being proposed by the LEA. Chairman of Governors David Waters opened the discussion from the floor by asking the LEA to consider Option 6 suggested by the Heads of both Alderman Knight and Tewkesbury Schools, which had been endorsed by a meeting of the governors prior to this meeting.
While Alderman Knight still has a small, but thriving Primary section, the majority of pupils now at the school have previously been in included placements in mainstream schools in the county. Parent after parent got up to speak about their childs problems while in the mainstream placements and the remarkable improvements they had noticed in them since they transferred to Alderman Knight. Many commented on the importance of the wealth of experience within the staff and how they work as a team in helping pupils overcome their problems.
Many parents also commented on the Audit Commission Report published a few days earlier and looked at some of the general problems with inclusion in the UK:
- the current obession with league tables and the importance of exam successes for schools in the mainstream sector,
- the unbelievably inefficient way in which support is provided to SEN pupils in the mainstream sector,
- the high dependence on support workers and the lack of specialist teaching staff,
- the continual emphasis on the childs problems, with little attempt to discover and nurture their abilities,
- that although attending a mainstream campus, many SEN pupils are truly not included within the schools.