The Petition of persons concerned at Manchester City Council's proposal to close Ewing School in Didsbury, Manchester
Declares that Manchester City Council is currently considering proposals to close Ewing School in Didsbury, Manchester; notes that Ewing School is a specialist school that teaches children with speech, language and social communication disorders, from the ages of 5 to 16 years; further notes that Ewing’s pupils are among the 1 per cent. of children with more severe and complex speech, language and social communication needs; further notes that many of the pupils have specific problems with understanding and the use of the spoken word and have further difficulties with social interaction; recognises that Ewing School has a high teacher to pupil ratio, which enables the school to provide an intensive Teach and Learn environment.
Believes that Manchester City Council’s proposals to close Ewing School and relocate the pupils to mainstream schools are misguided; further notes that many of Ewing’s pupils have previously been excluded from mainstream schools; further believes that Ewing School offers a safe and secure learning environment that is more conducive to their pupils’ complex needs, which gives them the chance to achieve a high standard of education.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to do all in its power to persuade Manchester City Council to rethink its plans to close Ewing School and to permit the school to remain open and free from the threat of closure.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr. John Leech, Official Report, 15 June 2009; Vol. 494, c. 137 .]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families:
The Government recognises that a decision on provision for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and any school re-organisation is never an easy one. Local Authorities are responsible for keeping under review their SEN provision and have a duty to ensure that there is sufficient provision for children with SEN in their area and that it is provided in a cost effective way.
The Government would expect the local authority, in this case Manchester City Council, to think strategically about its provision and reorganisation, having analysed future requirements such as demographic changes to ensure a better match between the need for places, parental preference and the supply of places, and to consider what provision would best deliver improved outcomes for children. We would expect it to consult widely on its proposals.
The local authority should also comply with the guidance on “Planning and Developing Special Educational Needs Provision”. This requires that when considering any reorganisation of SEN provision local authorities will need to demonstrate to parents and the local community how the proposed alternative arrangements are likely to lead to improvements in the standard, quality and/or range of educational provision for children with SEN.
It is for Manchester City Council to determine the precise nature of the communications and consultation with its partners. They must consult and inform all interested partners and allow adequate time and provide sufficient information for this process. Our advice to all local authorities is to start consulting early. All the normal processes associated with major changes to schools still apply, including the requirement to produce statutory proposals where required.
Manchester City Council has concluded the statutory consultation stage on the future development of Ewing School. When the City Council’s Executive has considered the comments made during statutory consultation it will decide on how to proceed. If the chosen way forward requires publication of statutory notices the local authority has provided assurances this will be done.
Ewing School is a community special school and pupils placed at the school, other than those placed for assessment purposes, will have a statement of SEN. Should Manchester LA take the decision to close the school then the LA responsible for maintaining each child’s statement will be required to amend the statement to change the name of the school named. The local authority will be required to consult parents about an amended statement and to ensure that any school named can meet the needs of the child and put in place the provision specified in the child’s statement. If parents disagree with the school named in their child's statement they will have a right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability).