In response to Jo Waltham’s article on the closure of the three schools for children with special education needs and disabilities, I can understand why some parents are pleased that the proposed new school will be built on the Rowdeford site.
Rowdeford is an excellent school and parents and staff campaigned hard to keep this school open. So too did parents and staff at St. Nicholas (Chippenham) and Larkrise (Trowbridge). 71 per cent of those that responded to Wilshire Councils “consultation” opposed the closure of these schools, but at last week’s cabinet meeting Wiltshire Council relentlessly pursued their intention to close them anyway.
The parents and children at the meeting opposed to this decision are right to be concerned.
Twenty million pounds of Wiltshire Council money will be spent building this new school which it is claimed will be a centre of excellence catering for the challenging educational needs of children across a very large catchment area.
It will then become an academy school outside the control of the council. Academies receive funding from Central Government and have no accountability to Local Authorities. They are overseen by an academy trust, often part of an academy chain.
Many of these academy trusts are now failing and a series of MPs’ committees have criticised the academies programme for a lack of oversight, in terms of finances and public accountability. Most of our public services – schools, health care, social care – are being privatised or transferred to bodies without close public scrutiny and there is no guarantee that the promises currently being made to parents will ever be met.
As always Wiltshire Council, mindful of the huge cuts to their budget by central government, fail to take account of the social costs of their decision. If Larkrise and St. Nicholas schools close, children least able to cope with long journeys to school will be bused out of their communities.
There is already a worrying lack of integration or diversity in our towns and villages and children with disabilities should have the right to be part of their local community. Once these schools are closed it will be a huge task to re-establish schools for children with special needs on a local basis in Wiltshire.
We want to keep our SEND school at Rowde, but we also want children in other parts of Wiltshire to have access to local education. There would be an outcry if other primary school children in Wiltshire were bused many miles from home to a mega primary school some where not easily accessible to children and their parents.
Why should children with special education needs be treated differently?
Chair Devizes Constituency Labour Party