The city’s six special schools could be merged into three bigger schools under the latest of the city council’s cost-cutting plans to be made public.
The proposals would also see the city’s two pupil referral units merge but remain on two sites, although primary school children there would move to either one of the special schools or into a mainstream school.
Brighton and Hove City Council says the plans are intended to improve services for children, with a slight increase in spaces – but they will also help cut costs by reducing the amount spent on buildings and management as well as keeping smaller schools with empty places open.
The plans are the latest in a string of cost-cutting measures to be put before councillors, who are having to make difficult choices in order to plug a £100m hole in the council’s budget over the next four years as its Government grant is slashed.
Chair of the children, young people and skills committee Tom Bewick said: “Feedback from local families shows they find the current system here too fragmented in terms of education, health and care support for young people.
“In some cases this means that children have to attend schools outside the city in order to have their needs met while other schools in the city have only a small number of pupils. This is both difficult for the families involved and very expensive. The proposals aim to improve the service that we offer.
“Cuts to our grants from central government mean that we have to reduce our spending by around £68million over the next four years. These cuts alongside rising costs and demand, especially in areas such as children and services for our older residents, mean that we have to do things differently.
“We want to reduce management and buildings costs where we can, and to reinvest the money in delivering the full range of services that families are asking for.
“We need to do this, but in a way that minimises the impact of any changes on the most vulnerable and ensures a smooth transition to any new models of delivery.
“These are proposals and if they are agreed we will start a public consultation. I am always keen to hear from residents and service users.”
The existing six special schools are: Patcham House, Homewood College, Hillside Special School, Downs Park Special School, Downs View Special School and the Cedar Centre School.
The two Pupil Referral Units are Brighton & Hove Pupil Referral Unit and the Connected Hub.
The plans propose that Hillside and Downs Park merge into one school over their two existing sites for pupils up to 16, Downs View expands to cater for all cognitive and learning needs for children up to 19, and Cedar Centre, Patcham House and Homewood College are merged into one school for pupils up to 16 years at the Cedar Centre site.
B&H Pupil Referral Unit (currently situated at Lynchet Close and Dyke Road) and The Connected Hub (situated at Tilbury House) would merge to form a single B&H Central Pupil Referral Unit for pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs. The unit will cater for pupils aged 11 – 16 years ie Key stages 3 and 4 and will be based on the Lynchet Close and Tilbury House sites.
Children who are currently attending full time at the primary Pupil Referral Unit (based at Lynchet Close) with statements of special educational needs or EHC Plans naming this provision, will move onto the roll of the specialist school in the city centre(SEMH). Anyone attending the PRU part time will receive additional funding support in their part-time mainstream school.
The council is keen to stress the proposals do not reduce the number of specialist places for children with SEND or SEMH issues – indeed they will show a small increase overall. There will also be no reduction to teacher/pupil ratios, class sizes or support staff needed and it’s hoped they will help personalise services for users.
If approved at joint meeting of the council’s children, young people and skills committee and the city’s health and wellbeing board on Tuesday 10 November, the proposals will be phased in over four academic years from September 2016 to ensure minimum disruption.
Other proposed cuts revealed in recent weeks include the merger of Hove Library and Hove Museum, a shake up of supported learning service for children with special educational needs, the closure of Tower House day centre and the Playbus, and the outsourcing of accommodation for adults with learning difficulties.
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