Wiltshire Publications

Parent hits out at council’s decision to close special schools

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A DILTON Marsh parent has blasted Wiltshire Council’s decision to close three special schools in the local area.

Kelly Alden’s daughter, nine-year old Nikita Hughes (known as Dolly  to her family and friends), attends Larkrise School in Trowbridge, one of three special schools that will be closed and replaced with a new special school in Rowde, near Devizes, which is due to open in September 2023.

Kelly says that the closure of Larkrise might force them to home-school Dolly as travelling to Rowde would be too far due to Dolly’s complex care needs – resulting in Dolly being isolated from her peers

Speaking to White Horse News, Kelly, said, “We are very upset about it all. We have to now worry about what we are going to do about Dolly – should she go to school or be home tutored by us? Home tutoring will be hard work as I’m a carer for Dolly during night times and I have to stay up all night, every night, so there will be no rest for me. 

“Going to Rowde is going to be too long of a bus drive for her – it’s just not going to work for Dolly and her needs. So home-schooling will probably be the only choice for Dolly unfortunately. This upsets me because she needs to be with her peer group and mix with the community. She’s going to be alone and not with her friends that have needs like herself, which helps her feel like she is not the odd one out. We just want her to be in Trowbridge, in the school she loves, with friends – she is in a small class and she gets all the help she needs.

“At the new school there will be bigger classes – she’s not going to be able to cope with this. She can’t cope with a large amount of people at parties let alone anything else. This is really going to have a big impact on her and how she mixes and meets new people.

“So yes, I’m very worried about it all and like I said, we just don’t know what to do for the best. We are trying our best to reassure Dolly that every thing is going to be okay and that she will still be able to see her friends and see her teachers, but we just don’t know.

“It is so wrong to be doing this to a special needs school when there are only a couple of them – we don’t have enough choice now for where to send our children.

“I just feel very let down, not just for Dolly, for the other children that will need schools like this in the future. It’s not just Dolly’s generation, it’s generations after, and every mum and dad should have the right to choose the school for their child and have a good education, whatever needs they have.

“To put them into one school with big classes – it’s just not going to work, it’s just going to be so much pressure on the child to have to cope with a bigger classroom. It’s just not right, I’m really disappointed with the whole situation.”

Campaign continues

Parents and members of the ‘Keep special schools local’ campaign, which was launched last year in response to the initial proposal, have said that they will continue to fight Wiltshire Council’s decision. Parent and campaign member Emily Wadds said, “Parents, staff, children and many Wiltshire residents are distraught that the council can ignore not only the feelings of so many people, but all the facts and evidence against the closures that we have presented to them. 

“Closing Larkrise School in Trowbridge and St. Nicholas School in Chippenham, and the building of a huge super school in Rowde is wrong in so many ways. Children with special educational needs should be educated as near as possible to their homes. We need more schools not less. We are resolved to continue our fight to keep the schools in their local communities.”

Jane Scrivener from the group added, “We await legal advice before we consider our next steps. We will not let the council destroy three good existing schools to replace them with one huge institution that will mean even more travelling for most of the children. 

“The decision to go ahead despite so much informed opposition, not just from families but teachers, special education specialists, therapists and other professionals, has upset a lot of people. The council have taken no notice of the facts we presented to them.”

Local MP, Andrew Murrison has also said he will back the campaign to stop the closures. He said, “I welcome the new money Wiltshire Council will spend on special needs provision but closing Larkrise and St Nicholas is clearly not what people want. 

“I will work with my colleague Michelle Donelan in Chippenham to oppose the mega school concept that’s been put forward. We hope to see the relevant minister shortly and note that campaigners are planning legal action. I do hope, even now, that the council thinks again and I’ll be doing all I can to persuade it to change course.”

About the decision, Wiltshire Council’s Laura Mayes, cabinet member for children’s services, said, “All pupils deserve to have access to a first-class education in a great school. We know parents want the very best for their children and we recognise that there are strong feelings in the community about this change. We want to work closely with all parents as we take these plans forward.

“We are bold and ambitious for all our children both now and for the future.  This is our chance to do something transformational – to create a system of excellence that helps all our 3,500 children with special needs.”

One Response to Parent hits out at council’s decision to close special schools

  1. Erica Watson

    June 7, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    It is very hard to understand how the vote to close local SEND schools could have been a unanimous one – does that mean that all of the WC committee feel that they know better than the experts who are quoted as saying that smaller local schools are the way forward. Am I the only person who finds this at worst suspicious and at best ill informed? Hopefully our MP’s can influence a Council who have a reputation for ignoring the communities they serve.