Anger at cuts to speech therapy classes

CUTS to the provision of speech therapy at schools for children with special needs will damage the youngsters' ability to communicate, headteachers have warned.

By Roddy Ashworth

CUTS to the provision of speech therapy at schools for children with special needs will damage the youngsters' ability to communicate, headteachers have warned.

Pupils at the Kingswode Hoe School and the Market Field School had previously received support from Colchester Primary Care Trust.

This funded sessions with a specialist in speech and communication to both train staff and help either individuals or groups of youngsters.


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But yesterday Elizabeth Drake, headteacher of Kingswode Hoe in Lexden, said that although the school's speech therapist was “brilliant”, as a result of the PCT cuts she no longer had time to deal with children directly.

The school has 109 pupils aged between five and 16, many of whom needed speech and language therapy, she said.

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“Our new speech therapist started in January of this year. But in the summer her manager came to see me and said they were going to have to cut her hours.

“Now she has no time to see pupils and is currently completing some staff training. After that I'm convinced it will get worse.

“We have got pupils with speech therapy needs who are not getting the therapy they need. The pupils are suffering as a result of this.”

Gary Smith, headteacher of Market Field School in Elmstead Market, said: “This is affecting us significantly. At the moment, this decision means we are losing 25% of our entitlement at a time when our school population is growing.

“I have got a meeting with the head of services next Monday and she is going to have to change her mind.

“They are denying a generation of children the ability to communicate.”

Mr Smith said there were 142 pupils at the school, of whom 98 have some form of speech and language need.

As well as providing services for children with moderate special educational needs, Market Field also caters for pupils with autism.

“This is the third cut in this provision and enough is enough,” he said.

Yesterday a spokesman for the North East Essex Primary Care Trust, which was created when Colchester and Tendring PCTs merged last month, said: “The former PCT (Colchester) had to make savings of £120,000 across all therapies in primary care.

“Unfortunately, this meant a recruitment freeze was introduced and the existing workforce had to be used in the most efficient way.

“Previously, one of the therapists spent two-and-a-half days covering both Kingswood School and another local school.

“The same therapist still visits the schools on a weekly basis, although she now only covers for a one-and-a-half day period.

“The new North East Essex PCT was established on October 1, 2006 and it is too early for us to comment on future provision at this stage.”

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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