Consultation over future of eight Suffolk school centres for additional needs pupils is delayed

Gorseland Primary School, Ipswich.

Gorseland Primary School, Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk County Council has postponed a formal consultation over proposals which could see eight centres for children with additional needs and two special schools’ residential units close.

The six-week consultation will now start on March 14, not Monday this week as originally planned.

A council spokesman said the change gave parents and the schools more time to comment as views in a four-week ‘options review’ phase could also be given from January 11.

The eight centres run alongside mainstream primary schools and offer education to children with a range of needs.

The residential units, which provide a total of 52 overnight beds, are part of The Priory School in Bury St Edmunds and The Ashley School in Lowestoft.

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Last March the council also delayed the process after more than 6,700 people signed a petition calling for education bosses to rethink the plans.

A letter from Nikki Edwards, assistant director for education and learning at the council, was sent to parents on Wednesday.

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In it she said: “We would like to gather further information on a range of options that have arisen from the previous review before developing our proposals for the formal consultation.

“There will therefore be two distinct stages to gathering your views. Firstly, an options review phase, which will then be followed by the formal consultation.”

In the letter she failed to rule out the timetable being postponed again, depending on the level of response and range of views expressed.

The spokesman said the new approach meant the timetable was “more streamlined” and was an “effective” way of working.

Joanna Hammond, whose son goes to the centre at Gorseland Primary in Martlesham Heath, said she was “dumbfounded” with the decision to postpone the formal consultation.

She added it placed families under strain for longer as they did not know what would happen.

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