Special school to close on polling day

A DECISION to close a special needs school for a day so it can be used as a polling station has been strongly criticised by a group of mothers.Woodlands Special School in Chelmsford has been informed it is needed for local elections and parents told to make alternative arrangements for their children.

A DECISION to close a special needs school for a day so it can be used as a polling station has been strongly criticised by a group of mothers.

Woodlands Special School in Chelmsford has been informed it is needed for local elections and parents told to make alternative arrangements for their children.

The decision has angered some parents, who have asked for a different venue to be found in time for the elections on May 3.

Cheryl Hazell and Jo French said the closure could cause difficulties, especially if parents were working.


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They said: “Those responsible for educating the children are trained in special needs, such as autism, many types of brain and physical damage and profound multiple learning difficulties. We feel there is no-one else equipped to look after them.

“We understand that governors at one primary school in Chelmsford borough have agreed not to allow their school to be used for polling days.

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“If there is that much concern for primary children, don't families whose children have special needs deserve even greater priority?”

Yesterday the school's headteacher, Malcolm Reeve, asked for any worried parents to contact him.

He said: “The school, historically, has been used as a polling station. Chelmsford Borough Council make the decision about what sites are used as polling stations and in law they have a legal entitlement to name the place they want to use.

“They don't require that we close the school, but it is difficult to see how it will stay open when it is being used as a polling station.

“We have no control over the decision, but any parents that have issues or difficulties with it are welcome to contact me, or the chair of the governors, and it may put us in a stronger position to go to the borough council.”

A borough council spokesman said: “Woodlands School has been used as a polling station for several years now. Before this a church hall was available and this was always used. Unfortunately it was closed and the council has not been able to find anywhere else within the polling district that was available.

“Whilst we try not to use schools because of the inconvenience caused to parents, we do have to provide polling stations and, in some areas, schools are the only suitable buildings available.

“We appreciate that parents whose children are attending a school that serves children with special needs like Woodlands have particular problems in making child care arrangements. We will continue to look for alternative buildings that could be used in future elections.”

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