July 23 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Education chiefs have slammed an Ipswich sixth form’s “discriminatory” cuts to services for disabled students who will see their teaching time slashed by almost a half.
One, formerly Suffolk One, informed parents of its controversial decision to reduce the number of taught days on its Foundation Learning programme from five days a week to three following a consultation, which ended this month.
Suffolk County Council has branded the cuts “discriminatory” against vulnerable students and said it would be seeking legal advice to encourage One to reconsider.
One’s principal Andy Whittaker said the decision, which will affect around 80 high needs students from September, had been taken for financial reasons and “strongly urged” the council to provide further support.
However the council claims its funding offer has increased year on year and highlighted the “significant public investment” in ensuring the sixth form building in Scrivener Drive and its staff were equipped to meet the needs of the most complex learners.
It claims cuts to classroom time will pose particular disadvantages for higher needs students whose concentration spans may be already shortened due to their disabilities.
With special schools in north and west Suffolk offering five-day-a-week teaching, the council claims One’s proposal would lead to an “inequitable” offer for pupils in the south of the county. Ipswich’s two special schools transferred their post-16 provision to Suffolk One when it opened in 2010, leaving parents with no local alternative.
A council spokesman said the authority was “extremely concerned” about the move, which “ignores the significant and universal lack of support for their proposal”.
“We firmly believe this decision will negatively and unfairly impact on vulnerable students in south Suffolk who will no longer have access to a five day learning programme,” the spokesman added.
Mr Whittaker conceded he would prefer to continue with the five-day programme but insisted it was impossible without more money.
“We would like to stress that we have explored all realist options – including reviews of all budget streams,” he added.
“We have requested additional funding but [Suffolk County Council] have confirmed that additional funding is not available.
“We appreciate their decision but strongly urge the county council to enter into dialogue with us on reaching a funding settlement which would enable One to provide two day alternative provision.
“We remain committed to delivering an inclusive, accessible and sustainable programme of study for all of our students and will continue to work with SCC to promote ways in which a five day programme of learning can be delivered.”
Mr Whittaker added he was “saddened” by the council’s response to the proposals and reiterated that One’s “prime considerations is the wellbeing of all students”.
The proposal had already met with an angry response from parents when it was first raised in March.