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Victory for parent power as WC delays special school decision

March 25, 2019 6:15 PM

Faced with a legal challenge to their proposal to shut Larkrise School in Trowbridge and St Nicholas' in Chippenham, Wiltshire Council Conservatives have backtracked on the scheme and agreed to do some more effective consultation.

Here's the WC release (edited):

A group of families had taken a case to court about the process and had been granted a hearing to consider elements of the case, scheduled to be heard next month.

Wiltshire Council has agreed to withdraw the decision to approve a statutory notice about the closure of three special schools (Larkrise, Rowdeford and St Nicholas), and the related notice regarding the opening of a new special school in Rowdeford.

Wiltshire Council will now treat all previous consultation and responses that took place between 9 January 2019 and 1 March 2019 as part of a pre-publication consultation. This means they are treated as part of an initial consultation on what proposals should be published for further consideration. This is a process with a number of steps, and the council is re-opening the first stage. The council will reach a decision about the next steps after the end of the extended consultation period.

There will be at least a four-week extension of the pre-publication consultation. As part of this, all responses, including those advocating options that differ from the proposal to close the three schools and open a single school in Rowdeford, will be fully considered. Consultation responses already provided to the council will be automatically considered as pre-publication consultation, and do not need to be resubmitted. If you would like to submit further information, please note that this can be forwarded to specialschools@wiltshire.gov.uk .

A new decision on the steps to be taken should then be made by the council's cabinet this summer. A summer decision will mean that the timetable for future SEND provision will still be met.

There's no comment from the responsible cabinet member, who in this case is hiding behind an officer:

Terence Herbert, Corporate Director, Children and Education, said: "We all want the very best for our children and young people with SEND. Schools in the north of the county are full and there will need to be an additional 220 spaces by 2023. We want to work with families and staff to find a solution that both meets the need for additional places, improves outcomes for children and young people with special needs and disabilities who are educated in our mainstream, as well as special schools. To achieve this, we will carry out further consultation and work with all our families so we can focus on the important job of providing all our pupils with the best education and support."