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Mum ‘terrified’ by announcement additional needs centres at Suffolk primary schools could be shut down and children forced into mainstream education

PUBLISHED: 15:35 29 January 2015 | UPDATED: 15:35 29 January 2015

Joanna Hammond is concerned for her son Riley Hammond, 4, who has autisim and global development delay conditions, now that a Special Support Centre he attends at Gorseland Primary may be closed.

Joanna Hammond is concerned for her son Riley Hammond, 4, who has autisim and global development delay conditions, now that a Special Support Centre he attends at Gorseland Primary may be closed.

Parents have expressed anger at proposals to shut eight school centres for pupils with additional needs.

Joanna Hammond is concerned for her son Riley Hammond, 4, who has autisim and global development delay conditions, now that a Special Support Centre he attends at Gorseland Primary may be closed.Joanna Hammond is concerned for her son Riley Hammond, 4, who has autisim and global development delay conditions, now that a Special Support Centre he attends at Gorseland Primary may be closed.

More than 800 people have signed a petition calling for the “specialist support centres” to be saved – but Suffolk County Council, which runs them, says nothing has yet been decided.

The proposal for the centres, which cost £1.4million a year to run, comes at a time when the council is looking to save or “redeploy” almost £3.8m of funding for “high needs” students.

According to a council paper a total of £250,000 would be saved by cutting the centres, due to “under-occupancy” of children using them.

The centres, which are mostly run alongside mainstream schools, help children who have complex learning difficulties such as autism.

Joanna Hammond is concerned for her son Riley Hammond, 4, who has autisim and global development delay conditions, now that a Special Support Centre he attends at Gorseland Primary may be closed.Joanna Hammond is concerned for her son Riley Hammond, 4, who has autisim and global development delay conditions, now that a Special Support Centre he attends at Gorseland Primary may be closed.

But a council spokesman said there would be an actual increase in funding for teaching children with additional needs.

He stressed a review into the centres was focusing on “improving services” and providing “more efficient” support for children.

He said: “Suffolk County Council is not reducing and is in fact increasing the level of investment made in the development and commissioning of inclusive provision.

“We aim to extend the range of targeted and specialist support made available to children and young people.

The centres facing closure

St Gregory Primary (Sudbury) - which has two centres

Sidegate Primary (Ipswich)

Gorseland Primary (Martlesham Heath)

Maidstone Infants (Felixstowe)

Causton Junior School (Felixstowe)

Castle Hill Infant School (Ipswich)

Castle Hill Junior School (Ipswich)

“The provision that is being proposed will require some changes to be made to some local services in order to reconfigure, adapt and/or redeploy provision to be able to be better positioned to meet the changing profile of needs of local children and young people with additional needs.”

But Graham White, secretary of Suffolk’s National Union of Teachers, said: “It’s a surprise and it’s unwelcome. The county council claims it wants to raise standards and yet it’s now doing something else – cutting support for schools which provide specialist support.

“If you want to raise standards you make sure that you help all pupils and in particular these pupils.

“Suffolk County Council is not going about its education policy in the right way at all. I remain highly critical of Suffolk’s education policy.”

A paper from the council’s Schools Forum proposed to “decommission” the centres as the £1.4m could be “better redeployed” for new additional needs services.

Sonia Barker, Labour’s opposition spokeswoman for education and skills at the county council, branded the proposal a “disgrace”.

“It makes you wonder what other vulnerable groups will be targeted by this administration,” she said.

“Obviously we will be looking into what alternative provision is being offered for these pupils and their families.”

The proposal follows a council announcement on Tuesday that nine children’s centres would be axed in Suffolk. Their services are being moved to other venues.

Mum Joanna Hammond says she is “terrified” by the thought of her son being educated in a mainstream school.

Her son Riley, four, attends the specialist support centre based at Gorseland Primary School in Martlesham Heath. He has Autism Spectrum Disorder and Global Development Delay, which means he learns in a different way to other children.

Mrs Hammond, from Falkenham, near Ipswich, said: “The support is really fantastic, they do sensory workshops and help them develop basic skills like cutting food and getting dressed properly and each week he gets three one-to-one sessions.

“It’s all done around the child and where they are ability-wise and what they can cope with.

“He would not be part of the group if he is in the mainstream classes. He is so far behind everyone in his age group it would be detrimental to his development.

“It has actually terrified me the thought of him going into mainstream schooling.

17 comments

  • I'm currently fighting for both my autistic boys for statements as both are not coping in mainstream. Schooling.it is so hard to get the council just to listen to how much our kids are struggling. The everdence I've had to supply against the local authority to prove my boys are behind is a fight.like say they won't listen.in this time the kids struggle. It's about money they don't want to help them with. Our kids with additional needs have enough to deal with the shouldn't have to struggle as well.

    Report this comment

    Lisa Embery-Donaghy

    Sunday, February 1, 2015

  • Apologies Nigel. Read the comments then saw 3 with 'terrified' in the text and lumped them all together.

    Report this comment

    dbr

    Friday, January 30, 2015

  • We will have to wait and see whether provision is in fact redeployed as suggested. It appears on the surface that this is an ignorance to the need and long term benefits. By supporting children living with disabilities to interact and engage physically and mentally you are improving wellbeing, learning and potential to live a successful adult life. My votes may not be going towards labour or tory this year...

    Report this comment

    Graham Walker

    Friday, January 30, 2015

  • dbr - for the record, if you read my previous post you'll see it's actually sympathetic to Joanna's situation.

    Report this comment

    Nigel Noakes

    Friday, January 30, 2015

  • Where is the justification? Totally shocked and appalled. They can't close st Gregory's it's a busy and successful SSC class that's worked wonders with my daughter! I am totally baffled as are her teachers. They will fight tooth and nail to keep the class running. Fuming.

    Report this comment

    Joely Allard

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

  • Couldn't agree more dbr and also support Vicki's description 'disgusted'. I wonder what Castle Hill School local authority governors and SCC councillors for that ward think.

    Report this comment

    Tolly

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

  • Well Robert, Nigel and Poppys Dad I think I can safely say that you have never been in the situation where your child requires Special Support and that support is under threat.

    Report this comment

    dbr

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

  • I think saying she is terrified is a bit OTT and dramatic.

    Report this comment

    Robert Manning

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

  • The word 'terrified' appears within quotation marks and I'd say Joanna Hammond has every right to be.

    Report this comment

    Nigel Noakes

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

  • Terrified ? People are terrified if they are suffering terror or just about to , like about to die in a plabe crash or being shot . Hardly the right word from a journalist in this instance ?

    Report this comment

    Poppys Dad

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

  • As a parent who has a daughter in the SSC Unit at Castle Hill Juniors, I am DISGUSTED! My daughter attended mainstream school for year after County turned down her statement...no one actually took the time out to meet her or us as parents, just read about her on a piece of paper and said NO. We pushed and pushed and, finally at the end of Year 1, she got her statement and got a place at CHI SSC unit. On her first day, she couldn't read, didn't know letter sounds or names, couldn't count, couldn't write her name, didn't know her colours...nothing! Yet by the end of Year 2, she was coming on in leaps and bounds. She is currently soaring in Year 4 at CHJ and has recently made it onto National Curriculum in maths! She will never cope in mainstream school! She will be left behind and we'll be right back at square one! It's not a case of "they'll get one to one still", most of these kids NEED routine, NEED the safety of a small class. Many of them WON'T cope I a class of 25 or 30 kids. And what about the kids who DON'T need the specialist support? Surely they're education will be disrupted too! No, County, you have this WRONG! Let the decision makers spend a week within one of these classrooms and then tell us you're right!

    Report this comment

    Vicki Pyett

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

  • There's something in their water!!!Who on earth comes up with these diabolical decisions in this town?Seems like they missed out on a good education themselves!!

    Report this comment

    Mary Mary

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

  • I always thought I had a good education but am struggling to work out how removing special needs provision from these schools and saving £250K equates to raising the bar. How are the likes of Castle Hill Primary which last year was placed under 'special measures' going to absorb these children who need extra support. Remove childrens' centres, remove special needs, that is after being told that early years education is crucial. You couldn't make it up.

    Report this comment

    Tolly

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

  • Interesting timing for the council to start consultation about further cuts to essential services: in the week when children's centre closures were already announced in Suffolk, at the same time as the political parties start ramping up election campaigning. Dr Coffey, Mr Gummer, Dr Poulter et al: your response is awaited!

    Report this comment

    Seasidemac

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

  • Do these cuts by any chance fall under the same authority that spent £20m on traffic lights to make Civic Drive worse? Or the countless million to make Norwich Road worse? I appreciate there are seperate budgets and cuts have to be made. But it seems madness when the town seems intent on spending scary amounts of money with no visible sign or improvement, while at the same time shutting down projects that cost a fraction and do invaluable work.

    Report this comment

    Oasis

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

  • Money, money, money....it's always about the money. Raising the Bar...how are we going to do that without extra resources for those who have more challenges than most. This country has gone barmy...I wonder who is to blame?

    Report this comment

    Scuzzer

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

  • This is a disgrace, but where are the local MP's demanding a re-think... no where in sight. Most teachers in main-stream cannot cope with the 'difficult workload', now they will have 'learn to understand' those who are challenged in their 'learning' even more than 'most'. It is no longer about 'protecting' those 'who need the extra support', but how much 'can we give to Cameron' and 'the rich pocket'.

    Report this comment

    Neil Nield

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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