Save our resource centre!
PARENTS are calling on South Gloucestershire Council to save a school's specialist centre which enables disabled children to learn alongside mainstream pupils.
A demonstration at the start of the holidays drew a big turnout. Now 5,800 people have signed a petition
The resource base at Emersons Green Primary School caters for 12 children aged from 4 to 11 with physical disabilities or visual impairment, giving them extra support and facilities while they have lessons and play with other children.
Parents were told at the end of last term that under a council review of special needs and disability provision in the area the resource base faced being "phased out", closing after its final intake of pupils had moved on to secondary school.
They immediately launched a campaign to save it, staging a demonstration outside.
More than 5,800 people have signed a petition on the Change.uk website calling on South Gloucestershire Council not to close the site.
A report to the council's schools forum said that, while the Emersons Green resource base 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 compared with an average of around £25,000.
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 disagreed.
Joanna Cooper moved to Emersons Green from Keynsham after her 10-year-old daughter Imogen, who has complex needs, was given a place at the school.
Joanna said: "Imogen did go to a mainstream school but after a short time it became apparent it wasn't going to work.
"I genuinely don't know where she would have gone to school without the resource base.
"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. Where are these children going to go?"
Helen Saukuru's son Matthew, 10, has been attending the school since the age of four.
Helen, who lives in Emersons Green, said: "At that point he couldn't eat on his own, he couldn't walk and he couldn't talk very much. There's absolutely no way he could have gone to a mainstream school – he needed that special provision.
"In February he had an operation on his back and he had to learn to walk again. Without the support of the specially-trained TAs, there's no way he could have done it. They have made a massive difference.
"Matthew would have to go to a special school, there would be no other option. Socially he needs the interaction with his mainstream peers and he wouldn't get that there."
Riven Vincent's daughter Celyn, 15, of Staple Hill, attended the resource base.
Riven said: "There's nothing at secondary level like this.While they might be physically impaired, they could get GCSEs and go on to uni with the right help. My daughter has to go to a special school now and she's not going to reach her full potential."
A council spokesman said the review, which will go out to public consultation in October, would increase places for children with special educational needs and disabilities across the district by about 18. Provision for children with severe learning difficulties and autism spectrum disorder would be increased at Lyde Green and other places would be moved closer to where families that need them live.
The spokesman added: “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 Conservative cabinet early next year.