Overhaul for eight special schools and two units

The Dales School at Cowpen Road, Blyth.
The Dales School at Cowpen Road, Blyth.

CHANGES are set to be made to special education provision as part of an overhaul of the service.

Consultation has been carried out with parents, staff and headteachers at eight special schools and two special units for a variety of changes, including increasing the age range of pupils who can attend.

The amendment of the age ranges and designations of the schools has come following a full review of special education needs in the county after concerns were raised about the poor outcomes being achieved by pupils, the high costs incurred and the number required to travel long distances to school.

At their meeting on Monday, members of Northumberland County Council’s executive agreed to the changes, paving the way for the publication of statutory notices to be published to amend the age range of the schools.

The establishments involved are Cleaswell Hill, Choppington; Cramlington Hillcrest School; The Dales School, Blyth; Atkinson House School, Cramlington; Collingwood School and Media Arts College, Morpeth; plus Barndale House School, Alnwick; Hexham Priory School; The Grove Special School, Berwick; Berwick Middle School Special Unit and Hexham East First School special unit.

Coun Lesley Rickerby, executive member for children and young people, welcomed the changes.

She said: “I think what comes out of the papers is the endorsement of the changes being proposed and the reasons why.

“This is for the necessary improvements to the service and to address the requirements of children with special needs.”

Coun Rickerby added: “We have to impress upon the fact it’s not just about money, it’s about providing a good service for those youngsters who are travelling long distances. By implementing these changes it will give better services to children on their doorstep.”

Officers at the council said concerns had been raised about children requiring special education needs already in the system, but they had moved to reassure parents that those youngsters would not be affected by the changes.

The move could see children as young as two-years-old start to receive the specialist education support they need at The Dales, Cleaswell Hill and Collingwood School and Media Arts College.

And there would be extra resources available for youngsters up to the age of 19 at Cramlington Hillcrest, Atkinson House, Cleaswell Hill, and Collingwood School.

The changes are expected to be implemented from September 1.