Parents hope school can be saved
PARENTS with children at a special school which is set to be closed are clinging to hope that the plans could be reversed by a Government watchdog.A fierce campaign was mounted when plans were revealed to close the Leas School in Clacton and transfer its 120 pupils to other schools, including a mainstream one.
By Annie Davidson
PARENTS with children at a special school which is set to be closed are clinging to hope that the plans could be reversed by a Government watchdog.
A fierce campaign was mounted when plans were revealed to close the Leas School in Clacton and transfer its 120 pupils to other schools, including a mainstream one.
Parents of the pupils, all of whom have moderate learning difficulties, organised a 5,000-signature petition and lobbied for the school to remain open.
But Essex County Council's decision to close the Leas was rubber-stamped by the independent schools' adjudicator Dr Elizabeth Passmore in September.
Now a complaint has been lodged with the local Government ombudsman that Essex County Council did not consult properly with parents over the closure.
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Paul Honeywood, chairman of the Leas Parents' Action Group, said the complaint was lodged in August and he had recently received a letter saying an investigation was being undertaken.
Mr Honeywood said the group had looked at the consultation period rules and that the council was obliged to undertake a proper consultation in which the views of all the interested parties were reflected.
He said the council was therefore required to provide sufficient information for those views to be formed before taking them into account.
The council then had to demonstrate how it had taken the views into account before making any subsequent decision.
Mr Honeywood said: "We believe they failed to meet those obligations. They failed to reflect accurately the views of all the interested parties."
Although the ombudsman cannot reverse the decision, it can recommend the decision is reversed or consultation is carried out again.
Mr Honeywood, whose autistic son Aidan, 11, goes to the Leas, said parents were feeling stressed about the situation.
"A lot of parents were quite upset by the adjudicators' decision and it is causing quite a few problems," he said. "We are apprehensive about the future."
The ombudsman's decision may not be made for a number of months.
A spokesman for Essex County Council said: "This was referred to both the Office of the Schools' Adjudicator and the Local Government Ombudsman at the same time.
"The decision over the future of the Leas has been made by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator - a decision that Essex County Council welcomed.
"The Adjudicator's decision to uphold the LEA proposals means that we can move forward to plan and meet the wide range of needs and rightful expectations of children and young adults with special educational needs in Tendring well into the future."