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Bury St Edmunds: Outcry at planned closure of centre for children with special educational needs

13:46 22 March 2013

Jasmine Clarke is unhappy about the decision of the governors of Abbots Green Community Primary School

Jasmine Clarke is unhappy about the decision of the governors of Abbots Green Community Primary School's decision to close their special needs unit at the school. Her son Harry Woolnough suffers from cerebral palsy and frequently attends the special unit.

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A PARENT has described her anger and frustration that a centre for children with special educational needs will close.

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Jasmine Clarke, 38, has expressed her concern at the news the Specialist Support Centre (SSC) at Abbots Green Community Primary School in Bury St Edmunds will be axed next year.

Her son Harry Woolnough, seven, who has cerebral palsy and is also showing signs of autism and possibly Asperger syndrome, has been enjoying attending the unit, which caters for about 12 children.

A statement provided by the school said governors had taken the decision to no longer host the Suffolk County Council SSC “as it is felt that it not sustainable in its present format”.

It said: “This decision has been one of the most difficult and emotional that the school has made. The governors and the school fully support the principle of the SSC and have evidence that it can be the perfect provision for some children.

“However, the school has continued to experience numerous difficulties with the SSC and despite lengthy discussions with the local authority the governing body feels that the ongoing issues are having a detrimental effect on the children, their families and school staff.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said the school has experienced a number of challenges, including consistency of staffing, and while the local authority wanted to continue to promote the SSC model, it respected the decision of the governing body.

Miss Clarke, whose son Harry was due to leave the unit in 2015, said she felt “so frustrated and angry” by the situation, adding she would fight for the best education for her child.

She said Riverwalk School in Bury St Edmunds was a fantastic school, but it was for children with “profound issues” and was not suitable for Harry.

Miss Clarke, who has three sons and is from Bury St Edmunds, said: “I’m facing the dilemma of what happens now.”

The Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said: “The decision by the governing body was taken very recently and local authority staff are currently engaged with parents/carers of pupils currently attending the SSC to discuss appropriate educational provision after the closure of the SSC.

“However, the closure will not affect all the pupils currently attending as some pupils are due to leave the SSC in July 2013 as a result of normal phase transfer.

“The SSC model is something the local authority wishes to continue to promote within the county as it offers a supportive educational environment for pupils with special educational needs and a number of SSCs continue to successfully operate across the county.

“A revised funding model is due to come into place later this year which it is anticipated will provide greater financial stability and an increased level of funding for all SSCs.”

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