City’s special school reorganisation set to move forward

Proposals for formal consultation on plans to create three centres of excellence for children with special educational needs and disabilities in Brighton & Hove out of the current school provision in the city will be considered by councillors on Monday 6 March.

The council’s preferred way of achieving this would be to merge schools. However, the legal process to achieve this has to be that one school closes, while the other is expanded.

Councillors will therefore consider proposals to consult on the following:

  • expand Hillside special school and close the neighbouring Downs Park special school to form a new hub for learning difficulties in the west of the city;
  • expand Downs View special school and close the Cedar Centre to form a new hub for learning difficulties in the east of the city.

Councillors will also consider the outcome of the formal consultation on the proposal to close Patcham House special school due to falling pupil numbers by September 2018, by which time most of the pupils will have left the school.

They will also be asked to agree a plan to create a new hub for pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs by bringing Homewood College and the city’s pupil referral units (PRU) together.

The current ratio of class teachers and teaching assistants will be maintained as a result of the proposed reorganisation, and there will be no reduction in overall pupil numbers.

The chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s children, young people and skills committee, Councillor Dan Chapman, said: “This is about making best use of resources to deliver better services. It’s not a cost-cutting exercise. All the money involved will still be spent on children with SEN and disabilities.

“We will ensure that the needs of our vulnerable children will continue to be met. Our proposals for delivering better and more integrated support have received widespread backing from both families and staff.

“Our special schools have delivered excellent education over many years, but the expectations of both the government and of local families are changing.

“Our vision is to deliver more holistic education, health and care facilities for our most vulnerable young people. Consolidating these different services at the three proposed new hubs would make a big and very positive difference to the overall level of care and education we can provide.”

The committee will also be asked to make a final decision on proposals to extend the age ranges of Hillside and Downs View down to age 2 in order to cater for the small number of very young children in the city with very complex needs.