Stevenage autism school fights on despite cuts

A special needs school that faced closure after local government funding was pulled, has secured grants to stay open for the foreseeable future.

Tracks Autism at The Glebe in Stevenage will be able to provide teaching to its young pupils for the next year and has fifty per cent of the money needed for the following year, after funding was given by Herts County councillors and educational charities.

Councillors James Fraser, Sharon Taylor and Ray Shakespeare Smith donated �3,000, �1,000 and �500 respectively from their locality budgets, while Tracks staff also secured grants from The Slyvia Adams Charitable Trust and Crouchfield Trust.

Herts County Council cut �11,500 annual Nursery Grant funding to the charitable school in April because of changes in central government policy that exclude schools that charge a top up fee. The cut also meant the loss of around �7,000 in associated funding. Trustees at the school argued the funding was at the authority’s discretion, but their appeal was rejected.

School chairman Mervyn Terrett said: “Since Hertfordshire County Council withdrew Nursery Grant funding, the work of the charity and its plans for a new building had been put on hold pending almost certain closure. But now thanks to generous donations the trustees are more confident about their immediate future.”

Plans are now being drawn up to apply for funding to build a new early year’s centre by 2014, Mr Terrett added.

The school, which gives one-to-one tuition to autistic Hertfordshire children to prepare them for entry into mainstream education, celebrated the news and its tenth anniversary with a teddy bears picnic for pupils their families, staff and volunteers.