Proposal to close the SPLD Base at Barnwell School, Stevenage - Closed

This consultation closed on 14 March 2016.

This consultation closed on 14 March 2016.

Any response will be published here.

The SpLD (Specific Learning Difficulties) Base at Barnwell School can accommodate up to 12 children of secondary age with Statements of SEN/Education, Health and Care Plans to meet their specific learning difficulties, along with a small number of specialist staff and an outreach service. There are currently 8 students on roll at the base. They attend Barnwell mainstream school where they follow the same curriculum as their peers. They also receive some tuition in the base for an agreed number of sessions per fortnight to meet their individual additional needs. A number of these students are transported to Barnwell School by taxi because they are eligible for transport to the school. For some students at the base, Barnwell is not their nearest secondary school.

What is the proposal?

To close the SpLD Base at Barnwell School, Barnwell, Stevenage, Hertfordshire, SG2 9SW on 31 August 2016 and to provide support for students in a different way.

Why is it proposed to close the SpLD base at Barnwell School?

SpLD provision in Hertfordshire was established to increase the knowledge, skills and awareness of educational settings in respect of understanding a range of Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD). Over the years schools have been empowered and enabled to increasingly identify and meet the needs of young people with SpLD. The skills and expertise for SpLD in mainstream schools has increased over time through advisory teaching support, central funding for accredited training courses (which has been available for more than ten years), and increased expectations on all schools to meet the needs of students with SpLD.

A review of existing SpLD provision in Hertfordshire was carried out in 2014-15. This identified a significantly reduced demand for secondary places over a number of years. The majority of secondary age students with SpLD already have their needs met in their local mainstream school without having to access the base provision and this has increasingly been the case over a number of years. Barnwell is one of the two county secondary SpLD bases, the other being located at the Francis Combe Academy which currently has no students on roll and is also the subject of a closure consultation running concurrently with this one. Barnwell secondary base has not had a full complement of students over recent years and a significant number of its students are leaving school in the summer of 2016.

How will the needs of secondary students with Specific Learning Difficulties continue to be met?

It is proposed that the needs of the majority of students experiencing SpLD would be met through the support arrangements and delegated resources available in all schools by subject teachers, and where needed through the advice and support of SENCos. Individually allocated student led funding will be available for the very small number of students with higher level (exceptional) needs requiring support over and above the schools? ordinarily available provision.

What would this mean for students and staff?

Those children remaining on the roll at Barnwell School will be supported through clearly articulated individual plans setting out how they will continue to be supported by staff at school. A process of careful next steps planning, including through the statutory annual reviews for students over the course of this academic year is scheduled.

All children currently in the SpLD base who have a different local catchment school will be able to complete Year 11 attending Barnwell School if their parents want them to. It is the intention that all students will have a review of their needs in the Spring Term 2016. The Council will ensure arrangements for meeting their individual needs continue to be in place as appropriate. Where students are already eligible for transport to the school, and it is determined to be in the best interests of students, this would continue.

Staff employed at the SpLD base are employed by Hertfordshire County Council like all other staff based at the school, as Barnwell is a community school. The school may need to make a small number of staff redundant if the base closes. Reasonable steps would be taken to try to avoid compulsory redundancy should this occur. Where compulsory redundancy cannot be avoided individuals would be identified from a relevant pool of staff following the application of selection criteria confirmed during consultation with employee representatives (trade unions/professional associations).

What educational improvement does this offer for students with specific learning difficulties?

The proposed changes will further embed the expectation that local schools can and do cater for students with SpLD. A programme of advisory teacher support, together with a funded accredited training scheme has been available over time to promote embedding of local knowledge skills and experience to ensure young people are enabled and empowered to learn within their local school/community.

Mainstream schools in Hertfordshire have benefitted from over twenty years of support from advisory teacher staff, funding to support accredited training and access to local bases at primary and secondary. Network groups and workshops have developed over time to share expertise on effective resources and assistive technology to increase confidence in local schools to identify and assess need and in turn to assist with planning effective programmes of support. This approach is endorsed through the Code of Practice (2015) assess, plan, do, review framework.

Secondary provision was devised to build capacity in local schools to meet the needs of Hertfordshire students locally, and the decline in the numbers of requests for SpLD support from schools together with the fall in numbers of places required in bases is indicative of needs being met within local schools.

Wherever possible the needs of a young person should be addressed within their local community at their local mainstream setting. Children experiencing additional (special educational) needs benefit from opportunities to be educated alongside their peers, fostering peer acceptance and positive self-image and where they may develop local friendships. With needs being met locally, students will not have to spend time unduly travelling to provision a distance from their homes[1].

Staff in local schools should now be equipped to recognise and identify needs, and put early intervention strategies into place. These strategies, alongside a regular process of review and evaluation, will further enable young people to receive early and effective support in their local school alongside their peers.

How the decision will be taken

This is a consultation and no decision has been made yet. All comments received will be made available to elected members who make the final decision. All responses may be made available in public reports, although personal details will be removed to respect individual privacy. The following timetable outlines the decision-making process. Please note that meetings marked with * will be open to the public. Although it will not be possible to inform everyone individually of the decisions made, you will be able to access this information throughout the process via the Civic Calendar.

Process Date

  • Public consultation 1 February 2016 to 14 March 2016
  • Enterprise Education & Skills Cabinet Panel Wednesday 27 April 2016*
  • Cabinet Monday 16 May 2016*
  • Statutory notice period (4 weeks) Thursday 19 May 2016 to Wednesday 15 June 2016
  • Decision if no objections to statutory notice (delegated to Director of Children's Services) 16 June 2016
  • Decision if objections to the statutory notice (Cabinet) Monday 11 July 2016*

[1] When consulting in the SpLD bases in Hertfordshire as part of the recent review students made positive comments about the support of staff, but also reported experiencing daily journeys in excess of an hour when being transported to the SpLD base.