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The Parks School in Oakham will close

Parents who campaigned to save a special needs school from closure are devastated following a council vote today.

Members of Rutland County Council’s cabinet voted unanimously to close The Parks Special Nursery School in Oakham this summer.

More than 1,600 people signed a petition calling for it to be saved but it made no difference, with council officers having recommended that the closure goes ahead as planned.

A protest was held in Oakham
A protest was held in Oakham

The move will mean children with special educational needs being taught in a mainstream school.

County councillor Tim Smith, who is responsible for children and families, said: “We know many people feel incredibly strongly about The Parks and don’t want it to close.

“It has provided fantastic care and support to children with additional needs and it’s clear from the consultation that families who have accessed the provision over many years have had an overwhelmingly positive experience.

The Parks School in Burley Road, Oakham. Photo: Google Maps
The Parks School in Burley Road, Oakham. Photo: Google Maps

“During this same period, special educational needs and disablities (Send) support in mainstream schools and nurseries has increased substantially.

“With demand for special nursery places falling, it is recommended that The Parks should close and funding be used to further increase the Send support available in mainstream settings across the county, including expansion of the designated specialist provision at Oakham CE Primary School.”

The Parks supports children with moderate and severe learning difficulties, as well as helping those with speech, language and communication difficulties, autism and physical disabilities.

Its pupils are all of primary school age and the council is not aware of any nursery age children needing specialist nursery provision from September.

The proposal to close The Parks was announced in November followed by a month-long public consultation.

An independent reviewer was appointed to analyse the responses ahead of this week’s decision meeting.

Maureen Morris concluded that no viable alternative options were put forward and so the council should proceed with the closure as planned.

She said: “Closing any much loved and valued provision was always going to be emotive.

“However, on reading the responses, the large majority were talking about the experience of pupils who went to The Parks Special Nursery School some years ago.

“There were only a very few who had current experience of The Parks as it is now, and I feel more weight should be given to the responses of these people.

“It is my understanding that families of children who may have been candidates for The Parks, as with all Rutland children who are identified as potentially requiring additional support, are currently being supported by officers

of Rutland County Council while going through the education health and care plan process, or whose children have been recently diagnosed, and this will continue

even after a decision regarding the future of The Parks is made.”

On the Save The Parks Special School Facebook page on Thursday morning, parents had written that the cabinet decision was ‘a complete and utter disgrace’ and that ‘they have made a very bad mistake’.

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