Challenged kids' chance for happiness

A PIONEERING pupil referral unit for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties is now fully open at last – two terms after its original launch date.

By Judy Rimmer

A PIONEERING pupil referral unit for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties is now fully open at last – two terms after its original launch date.

Five more similar centres are also set to open in Suffolk, but unions are warning they could be hit by a shortage of suitably qualified staff.

Up to now, the badly-needed Kingsfield Centre at Stowmarket has only been offering outreach work, with staff going into schools to work alongside pupils.


You may also want to watch:


But Suffolk's special education manager Frances James today said the unit – on the site of the former Oakwood school – was now fully-staffed and able to teach pupils on-site.

"We are working with nine individual pupils quite intensively, with some of them being taught part-time at Kingsfield and part-time at their own school," she said.

Most Read

"We are also providing support for 35 pupils by going out into schools, which involves group work."

Oakwood controversially closed its doors in December 1999, at first on a temporary basis. Parents and campaigners fought to keep it open, but, following a consultation process, the decision was made to close it permanently.

Oakwood was a residential school which could take up to 58 boys with emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD).

The new-look Kingsfield Centre is very different, providing a pupil referral unit for just 12 boys and girls aged nine to 14. The idea is to have two groups of six, who will be taught at Kingsfield for part of the week and spend part of the week in their own school.

Mrs James said Suffolk is also looking to open another five pupil referral units in the next 18 months.

Parent Partnership co-ordinator Eithne Leming has just been appointed as headteacher of the new First Base in Ipswich.

This will cater for youngsters with EBD aged from three to eight and is due to open next September, in the former residential block at Belstead Special School on Sprites Lane.

National Union of Teachers county secretary Martin Goold welcomed the new pupil referral units – but pointed out that it was more than two years since Oakwood closed. "There are still no replacements for the 58 EBD places which were lost then," he said.

Mr Goold said there had been cases where pupils with EBD had been excluded from schools after being violent and then neighbouring headteachers had been asked to take them, because of the lack of specialist EBD places.

"Teachers should not be expected to teach pupils who have previously been violent," he said.

He also pointed to the delay in fully opening Kingsfield, and said the other units were also likely to find it hard to recruit enough suitably qualified staff.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus