Letter - Council asked to think again over school

A FORTNIGHT ago you rightly highlighted concerns about the future of provision at Pinderfields Hospital School.

The council is currently consulting on whether the present school should close and re-open as a ‘pupil referral unit’.

What their short consultation document does not say - but is included in the initial report presented to the council’s Cabinet - is that this change is linked to a plan to cut the school’s budget from around £1.2 million to less than £700,000 per year.

When the council’s Family Services Director Elaine McHale commented last week that ‘the school already has an excellent reputation and will continue to provide high quality education’ she did not finish that sentence with ‘to less pupils and with a reduced curriculum’. That is however the future the school is facing.

The school has been rated as ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED on its last two inspections and provides education to a wide range of pupils. This is not just at the Hospital site as most people expect, but includes a nursery unit in a primary school assessing 3 & 4 year olds with complex needs, tuition at home and a small school for mainly secondary age pupils at our Wrenthorpe Centre. It is this last part of our provision that is under greatest threat.

Many young people are referred to the Wrenthorpe Centre after spending up to a year out of meaningful education. The school successfully re-introduces them to education, helping them gain a wide range of qualifications (up to A* at GCSE) and go on to jobs or college places.

The council’s consultation suggests that the range of pupils attending this part of the school will be narrowed - unless their mainstream school pays separately for them to attend. The greatest danger in the proposals is that the skilled specialist teaching and support staff team at the school will be broken up before arrangements are put in place for this to be possible. How wide a curriculum an already small school could offer with around half its current teaching workforce is very doubtful.

There is no doubt that the future funding of special education is uncertain, but the council’s consultation appears to be based on assumptions that are less certain than they suggest. Their main option for the future of the school has also been developed without discussion with the secondary schools who will be asked to pay for individual pupils to attend the school under it.

The school’s Governors have produced a response to the council’s consultation, backed up with a wide range of views from parents, former pupils, secondary schools and health professionals.

We hope this will prompt the council to think again.

David Pickersgill

Chair of Governors

Pinderfields Hospital School