Mum's plea to council to save place where disabled daughter thrives
A MUM is calling on South Gloucestershire Council to save a school's specialist centre, which enables her disabled child to learn alongside mainstream pupils.
Kristy Hooper, of Winterbourne Down, joined other parents at a demonstration protesting against a proposal to close the resource base at Emersons Green Primary School, which caters for 12 children aged from 4 to 11 with physical disabilities or visiual impairment, giving them extra support while they have lessons and play with other children.
Parents were told at the end of last term by head teacher Karl Hemmings that a council review of special needs and disability provision in the area proposed "phasing out" the resource base, closing it after the final intake of pupils had moved on to secondary school.
More than 6,100 people have signed a petition on the Change.uk website calling on South Gloucestershire Council not to close the site.
Kristy's daughter Lily-Grace, 10, who has mild cerebral palsy and visual impairment, has been attending Emersons Green for three and a half years and has benefited from the combination of specialist support and mainstream education.
Kristy (pictured with Lily-Grace at the centre of our photo) said: "She has absolutely thrived - it's been an incredible experience.
"It's the closest provision and it's perfect for Lily-Grace - there's Braille on every door and it's all on one level.
"We know they go to a great school."
Lily-Grace said: "I think our school is great - I don't think it should close down. The children starting in reception are going to need it."
There was a big turnout from parents and children at a demonstration against plans to close the resource base at Emersons Green Primary School
A report to the council's schools forum in July said that, while the Emersons Green resource base had the most local catchment of pupils, with children travelling two miles on average to use it, it also had the second-highest cost per pupil in the area, at just under £37,000 per pupil per year.
The report also said that, as pupils at Emersons Green accessed mainstream lessons for most of the day, their needs "could be equally met by their local school".
Parents of children currently attending the school disagree.
Joanna Cooper, who moved to Emersons Green from Keynsham after her 10-year-old daughter Imogen, who has complex needs, was given a place at the school, said: "Imogen did go to a mainstream school but after a short time it became apparent it wasn't going to work.
"This is a purpose-built building for people with physical disability and visual impairment, with not one step, corridors which are wide for wheelchair users and extra roof lights.
"It would be a total waste and a shame for all these families if it were to close."
Tracy and David Brock's daughter Amber, 5, travels to the school each day from Yate. She has dystonia, a muscle condition which means she can't flex her arms and affects her muscle strength. can't sit up, walk, feed or go to the toilet by herself.
Tracy said: "She's very intelligent, so she doesn't belong in a special needs setting.
"She's absolutely thrived in her first year here, she loves everybody and has made great friends."
A council spokesperson said the authority needed to make changes in provision "in terms of level and types of places and geographic location".
The review, which will go out to public consultation in October, would increase the number of places for children with special educational needs and disabilities across the district by around 18, the spokesperson added, with some places moved closer to where families that need them live.
The spokesperson said: “Following the initial discussions with the Schools Forum and in particular with Emersons Green Primary School, we acknowledge that there has been some anxiety caused on hearing about some elements of the report. While we stress that none of the current proposals will impact children who currently use the Emersons Green Resource Base, nor those who are due to start in September, we are now going to allow a number of weeks to engage with those families to make sure that people understand the rationale for change; that the process is open and as detailed as possible; and importantly to allow alternative options to be put forward and considered."
A final decision on the future of the resource base is expected to be made by the council's cabinet early next year.