Brighton college for bullied children has funding withdrawn

Posted On 14 Oct 2013 at 8:13 pm

A Brighton college catering for children who have been bullied has had its funding withdrawn.

The Self Managed Learning College, in Edward Street, Brighton, will receive money until Christmas.

The decision was taken by the Brighton and Hove City Council Children and Young People Committee at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Monday 14 October).

Ian Cunningham, the chairman of the board of governors and a Green Party member, said afterwards: “It shows a callous disregard for children in the city.

“We’re starting to talk to lawyers now because they’re completely out of order.

“I am publicly resigning from the Green Party because they clearly have no interest in the children of this city.

Councillor Sue Shanks

Councillor Sue Shanks

“We are an approved alternative provider. We’re not providing a private education as Labour suggested.

“The council has a legal responsibility to make sure that all children get a suitable education.”

The committee meeting was adjourned while the chairman Councillor Sue Shanks took legal advice after confusion over apparently contradictory votes on funding for the college.

Professor Cunningham said: “It’s complete chaos. It leaves us in limbo.”

Councillor Shanks said that the council had been able to recoup funding for the small college from the Department for Education (DfE).

But the DfE had changed the rules, potentially leaving the council tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket in a time of financial constraint.

She said that the children who attended the Self Managed Learning College were regarded as home educated because they were not in a mainstream or council-run school.

The college takes children who have been bullied or who have special educational needs including some who are school-phobic.

Councillor Andrew Wealls asked the committee to fund pupils at the college until the end of the academic year to give it time to find alternative sources of income.

The Conservative councillor also wanted two pupils in Year 10 and one in Year 11 to be funded until they had completed their GCSEs.

Councillor Ruth Buckley, a Green, said that funding for pupils should end at Christmas apart from the three teenagers studying for their GCSEs.

The committee held three votes which resulted in councillors being told that the funding would stop at Christmas for all pupils.

The college has just 16 pupils, with 11 of them funded by the council and one by a Brighton secondary school.

Two parents spoke out at the meeting – Sam Wilson and Madeleine Turner.

Professor Cunningham told the committee: “The bullied get the money and the bullies don’t.

“This is trivialising the issue of children getting beaten up at school on a regular basis.

“This is going to take children who are in a place where they are happy and learning and will put them in a place where they were not happy and not learning.”

Councillor Shanks said: “The local authority is very concerned about any bullying which is taking place in our schools.

“I don’t think anyone is questioning the value of this approach to educating young people, only whether we can continue funding it.”

The sum at stake was between £15,000 and £40,000.

Councillor Shanks said that future of the college could be discussed when the committee meets again next month.

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