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Rutland County Council met with anger at meeting to discuss proposed closure of The Parks Special School in Oakham

A council has received angry comments from parents at a meeting to discuss the possible closure of a special needs school.

Rutland County Council held the meeting on Wednesday (November 1) to launch a public consultation on the proposed closure of The Parks Special School, which is based at the same site as Oakham CE Primary School, in Burley Road, Oakham.

The proposal says: “The local authority has no alternative but to propose that The Parks is no longer viable, and therefore should close as a special nursery school with effect from August 31, 2024.”

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

Rutland County Council, which is responsible for state schools in the county, announced a review of their special educational needs (SEN) provision last October.

Dawn Godfrey, strategic director for children's services told the meeting: “We need to do this to maximise resources how children with SEN are supported in the early years sector.”

Among the 60 concerned and angry parents at the meeting was Mary Darlington, who used to run SEN nurseries. She said: “You say that The Parks isn’t viable because it is a very specialist facility and only has a few children, but if you close it where are these children of nursery age going to go?

Dawn Godfrey
Dawn Godfrey

“The council is cutting down on special needs within Rutland, but many of these children cannot go into a mainstream schools at nursery level, or even at reception.

“You are paying out huge sums of money to transport children out of the county to other facilities when we have a perfectly good one here. Why can’t you re-direct that money to The Parks and make it a viable school?”

Ms Godfrey responded: “We are investing in our special provision education and have already spent over half a million pounds, but we cannot afford to keep putting money into a facility that only caters for up to eight children.”

Many angry and concerned parents attended the meeting
Many angry and concerned parents attended the meeting

One parent said: “All the money you are spending on sending these children out of the county will only come back on council tax payers when you have to spend more on their mental health needs later in life.

“They need somewhere to go where there are other children with needs like them. At the moment you’re relying on parental assistants at £15 an hour who simply don’t exist – why not open The Parks during the summer and use the parent carers to save money as you don’t have to pay them.

Another parent added: “The reason The Parks has such low numbers is because the council won’t allow us to fund specialist teachers for these children.

“You continually put barriers in front of parents trying to get their kids into the school, making it harder and harder to gain entry. If we lose The Parks where will these children go?”

Another said: “My son would not be where he is today with his education and mental health needs if it were not for The Parks.

“Parents are not being told about support groups, even by council workers about The Parks provision, which is desperately needed.

“Why is the council not telling parents with children who have disabilities, physical or mental, about support facilities like The Parks which are there to help them?”

One mother said: “This is having a massive impact on the whole community. You talk about children with profound multiple disabilities as if they can be placed anywhere.

“Some of these children are so traumatised they have to be placed in small groups like those that The Parks caters for, because they simply don’t respond otherwise.

“If you take The Parks away, how and where are you going to create twenty other classrooms with five children in each? What this consultation is proposing is a short-term gain, and not a long-term solution.”

Many of the parents who were at the meeting wished to remain anonymous as they wish to protect themselves and their children.

The consultation public consultation period runs until November 30, and anybody wishing to comment on the proposal should contact the council via email at: parksproposal@rutland.gov.uk

The Parks School teaches children up to seven years of age in a specialist setting. It has been rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

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