No guarantees yet for future of eight Suffolk centres for children with additional needs

Gorseland Primary School, Ipswich.

Gorseland Primary School, Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

The long-term future of eight education centres for children with additional needs in Suffolk is still undecided.

Suffolk County Council saved the specialist support centres (SSCs) in March after a petition fighting the proposals grew to more than 6,700 signatures.

But the centres, which support around 100 children and work alongside mainstream schools, are only guaranteed to stay open for the rest of the 2015/16 academic year.

A council spokesman said schools and parents’ views had been used in a consultation which would help inform any future decision.

Joanna Hammond, one of the parents behind the petition, said the consultation meeting she attended was “positive”. Her son Riley, five, has autism and global development delay conditions.

“It gave everyone the opportunity to have their say, it was very much about what’s good about SSCs, why we need them and whether there were any areas parents had identified for change,” she said.

“Parents said why they are invaluable for their children and that was it. It was certainly a positive meeting, I think it was nice for people to have their say.”

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The centres are at Sidegate Primary, Castle Hill Infant School and Castle Hill Junior School in Ipswich; Gorseland Primary in Martlesham Heath; Maidstone Infants and Causton Junior School in Felixstowe; and St Gregory Primary in Sudbury, which has two centres.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “The full review process included the work of the eight specialist support centres that are attached to a number of mainstream primary and infant schools.

“At all of the eight SSCs, parents, carers and staff were engaged during the review process in discussions to ensure that their views were captured and will go towards informing any future recommendations before any decisions will be taken.”

Parents expressed anger when the proposals were revealed in January.

The council said at the time that closing the centres would save £250,000 as they claimed they were under-used.

A council letter to parents in March guaranteed the centres would stay open until the end of the 2015/16 school year and said “more time” was needed to analyse all support services offered to children with additional needs.

n Do you have an education story? Call Matt Hunter on 01473 324802.