Learning disability bases in primary schools across Herts set for closure

Special education bases in primary schools across Hertfordshire may be closing

Special education bases in primary schools across Hertfordshire may be closing - Credit: Archant

Specific learning difficulties bases within primary schools in Welwyn Garden City, Letchworth, Stevenage and St Albans may be closing as part of Herts County Council’s reorganisation of services.

Councillors on the education, libraries and localism cabinet panel backed the idea to close the bases – which are at Applecroft Primary in Welwyn Garden City, Grange Junior in Letchworth, The Leys Primary in Stevenage and Windermere Primary in St Albans – along with six others across Herts, in a meeting on Tuesday.

According to the plans drawn up by Herts County Council, the needs of the majority of children with specific learning difficulties – including dyslexia, dyspraxia, discalculia and ADHD – can now be met within their own mainstream primary schools, with outreach support where needed.

The reorganisation would free up £775,000 that could be redirected to meet high level and complex needs.

Support – and additional funding – would then be focused on the “very small” number of students with “exceptional” need.

The report from the council’s director of children’s services, Jenny Coles, said: “Like all local authorities it is appropriate and necessary to undertake reviews of our special educational needs provision and best use of available high needs funding.

“The county council needs to ensure that it can safeguard its ability to meet future needs and pressures, and provide the best possible provision to local children.”

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However, the vast majority of teachers, headteachers and parents who responded to the public consultation were against the plans – out of the 700 people who responded, 657 – 93.9 per cent – opposed it. Just one of the 11 headteachers responding agreed.

Responses highlighted the value of the expertise of staff, concerns about the impact on pupils and worries that affordable training would cease.

Following Tuesday’s panel decision to back the plans, it will next be presented to Herts County Council’s cabinet on June 18, which will determine whether to publish statutory notices.

Concerns over responses to the consultation and the impact the change would have on school budgets were also raised at the meeting, as some councillors questioned whether – in the face of such strong objection – the public consultation should have been repeated after the changes has been made.

Simon Newland – the council’s assistant director of education – said there may be further opportunity for consultation, even after the publication of statutory notices.