The education and support for children with special needs in the city has been nationally recognised as of very high quality. We’ve made a commitment to Brighton & Hove families that these standards are maintained and improved wherever possible.
A priority now is to bring education, health and care provision together on our special school sites so we can meet children’s key needs in one place. We also have a new duty to meet the needs of a wider age range, up to 25 years, and we are looking at new ways of providing for young adults with special needs.
To do this we need to make changes to ensure we’re enabling and empowering all children and young people who need additional support with their learning so that they can thrive, enjoy their time at school and achieve their potential. We also need to ensure their families receive the help they need.
Following extensive conversations with families, special schools’ staff and governors, charities and education specialists, we’re now using their feedback to put forward ideas how the service could change to better meet children’s needs and greatly improve working environments for teaching staff.
The main change we are proposing is to create three main hubs linking the city’s special schools and two pupil referral unit. Combining the skills and education provision in East, West and Central hubs will enable the schools to develop their quality provision further by working more closely together.
The recommendations also propose the creation of a new special facility, based in a mainstream school, with an intake of about 20 pupils. The council is currently seeking expressions of interest for this new facility which would add to the places available for inclusive special education already available at the popular Swan Centre at BACA and Phoenix Centre at Hove Park School.
As part of the changes, the proposals recommend the closure of Patcham House Special School in July 2018. Pupil numbers have declined at the school and by July 2018 the large majority of pupils will have completed their education. Almost all Patcham House pupils are currently in Years 10 and 11. We will work closely with the families of very small number of pupils who are currently in Year 9 to find the best place for these children to also complete their education.
The proposals being put forward are designed to bring manageable change over a period of years while also making improvements as soon as practical. The pace enables the vast majority of pupils to complete their school journeys at their current setting and others will have their individual needs catered for within the city.
To us, the mantra ‘children not buildings matter most’ is what’s driving our thinking at every stage of the revamp of the services. Under these proposals, there’ll be at least the same number of specialist places for children with special educational needs across the city and we’re also keeping the same number of special school class teachers and support assistants.
The proposals will soon be discussed by councillors at the Children Young People and Skills Committee on 3 October. We’ll keep talking, consulting and listening to make sure any changes are going to make things better for the hundreds of children at the heart of these services.