A SPECIAL school apologised to parents for not telling them sooner about plans to end post-16 classes for children with learning disabilities on one of its sites.

The North West Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre, which provides support for around 200 children with special educational needs, has partnerships with other schools in North West Leeds, meaning support would be in place to allow children with SEND to attend mainstream schools in their area.

One of these agreements, between Green Meadows specialist school and Benton Park School in Rawdon, became known as Meadows Park. The SILC had recently decided to end the post-16 element of this partnership, meaning children needing specialist SEND support would no longer be able to study at Benton Park after year 11.

Parents had been informed in early 2019 that the change would take place in September, as Benton Park School was thought to be facing a ‘bulge cohort’ of pupils and that extra space would be needed.

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However, this was not the case, and the decision was made due to post-16 SEND learners at Green Meadows ‘outperforming’ their peers in Meadows Park.

A spokesperson for the SILC said: “In September 2018, Benton Park School advised us that they would be taking a bulge cohort and would need to find additional space in the coming years to accommodate this.

“In the end this was not the case, but whilst considering this potential issue with space, we took the opportunity to reflect on the purpose of our Meadows Park offer at Key Stage 5, and decided that in order to prepare our students for adulthood they would be better served by a curriculum offer that could be personalised to meet their needs and give them the best opportunities for their next steps in learning.

“The main purpose of the partnership model is the opportunity for pupils to access mainstream classes and peers.  At Post-16 these opportunities lessen, as students begin A-Level and BTEC courses, which are not accessible for our pupils.

“Social opportunities also wane as sixth formers become more independent and spend less time in school dependent on their studies.

“Our priority at NW SILC is to enable each individual child and young person to achieve great things whether it be academic success, developing independence and life skills or surmounting a huge personal challenge.  Having analysed external accreditation achievements in summer 2019, it confirmed that Post-16 students at Green Meadows School were outperforming their peers at Meadows Park, which supported the decision to phase out the post-16 partnership offer at Meadows Park.

“On reflection, we acknowledge that parents would have welcomed notification of a change to the Meadows Park partnership Post-16 provision sooner, and we apologise for any distress this has caused.”

Frank Griffiths, who has been working with parents of SEND children in north Leeds, claims the proposed changes were not made clear to parents in time.

In a letter to Leeds City Council, he said: “No intimation of that ‘decision’ was revealed to the families until late March 2019 after the go-ahead was given by the Council to the School’s development plans.

“Moreover the reasons given for this decision began as an assertion that the council had requested a ‘bulge cohort’ be accommodated; this was subsequently vacated.”

He added that the letter to parents had been sent home via pupils, and that many of the parents did not even receive the letter.

The letter was sent a one month after the council’s executive board agreed to early plans for a £20m rebuild of Benton Park School.

Phil Mellen, deputy director of learning at Leeds City Council said the planned rebuild had nothing to do with changes to post-16 or SEND education.

He said: “The proposal to rebuild Benton Park school is to replace failing infrastructure and help increase the number of school places for young people aged 11 to 16 years. It has not received any priority school building programme (PSBP) funding.

“The block used for post-16 education is being left in place, and the special educational needs and disability (SEND) accommodation is being provided on a like for like basis.  There is therefore nothing about the planned re-build that is leading to changes to post-16 or SEND provision.

“The arrangement between the two schools for learners on the roll of Green Meadows, who have been attending Benton Park, is a partnership arrangement.  The reasons behind the discussions between the two schools have been the subject of a scrutiny working party.  The council has not been part of the decision made between the two schools.”

Leeds City Council added there were currently seven Key Stage 5 pupils in Post-16 at the Meadows Park provision, and all would see out their studies at Benton Park.