Autism school pledges to carry on despite cuts

15:05 03 April 2012

The school provides one-to-one specialist care to eight children from the county to prepare them for entry into mainstream school.

The school provides one-to-one specialist care to eight children from the county to prepare them for entry into mainstream school.

Archant

A specialist school for autistic children – the only one of its kind in Herts – has pledged to carry on its work despite a decision by Herts County Council to scrap a quarter of its funding.

TRACKS Autism at The Glebe in Stevenage was told by the authority that it will no longer provide parents with Nursery Grant funding after a change in government rules. The grant gives 15 hours free schooling to pupils and made up 26 per cent of the school’s income.

Finance chiefs at County Hall said they cannot support the grant because the school also charges top-up fees to parents. The school which is also supported by charitable grants said it needs to charge the equivalent of 32 per cent of its costs because of the higher expense of its one-to-one tuition.

Despite the intervention of Stevenage Borough Council, Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland, and support from schools minister Nick Gibbs, the authority decided it would be breaking financial regulations to continue the funding.

Despite the set-back, staff are determined to carry on and find the £11,500 missing Nursery Grant funding plus around another £9,000 associated with the grant from charitable sources, including possible funding from businesses to give their eight current pupils the skills to enter mainstream education.

Chairman Mervyn Terrett said: “The forthright views of our parents during these last few weeks make it explicitly clear that parents need the exact kind of service which TRACKS is able to offer and which has been proved to be so successful in supporting the children and parents who have accessed the service.

“It is sincerely hoped that from 2013 when the new government guidelines for such support comes in, Herts County Council will be grateful that TRACKS has been kept alive so that HCC may be able to refer families to this service and fund it.”

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