Liverpool Carnival 12th July 2014

Liverpool Carnival Parade 2014: A number of wheelchair users taking part in the parade

The politics of jealousy: why Wirral’s 66 politicians need to be careful what they say about disability

                         

Above is a photo of a carnival you will probably never get to see in a newspaper as it shows two disabled people in wheelchairs participating in the parade. So why am I showing you this and what relevance does it have?

For years, Wirral Council has got itself into trouble on disability issues. I’ll briefly recap, Martin Morton and the way Adult Social Services treated disabled adults, the proposed closure of Moreton Day Centre and now the proposed closure of Lyndale School.

The thread running through all of those is an extremely dangerous one to tell society. It’s one of withdrawing services for those with a disability or in the case of Martin Morton’s whistleblowing shamefully taking advantage of adults with disabilities as some of them due to the nature of their disability can’t stand up to organisations like Wirral Council without outside help.

So what sort of message does this give out? It’s one of jealousy of the vital services people require because of their disability. It’s one that fuels an increase in disability hate crime (much of which goes unreported). It’s one (that in the case of Lyndale School) thousands signed a petition against it going any further.

Disabled people are a part of society. I was brought up in the 80s and we were taught to be accepting and tolerant. When I was a teenager I went to school with a lad who had epilepsy, he used to routinely have fits and the school called an ambulance due to him knocking himself out. We didn’t treat him any differently though because of his epilepsy! We treated him as a friend.

In adult life I sat on a university committee of staff and students (I was there to represent the views of ~17,000 students). In what to some will seem an extremely ironic twist, the law library wasn’t accessible to wheelchair users as it was on the first floor. Despite our pleas, despite this being unlawful, the Chair of the committee was told that the university wanted to spend the small amount of money for adapting the building on other things. Disabled students weren’t a priority you see, not to senior management who came from a bygone age when people with disabilities didn’t go to university.

However, politicians have to be extremely careful when dealing with sensitive issues involving minorities. There’s a sensational over reporting of benefit fraud cases in the media. Officially more is lost to administrative errors than benefit fraud and the rates of benefit fraud are extremely low. Due to the press coverage this isn’t what some of the public think. Telling the public such boring facts sadly doesn’t tie in with the political line of some irresponsible tabloid sensational journalism.

So going back to Lyndale School. My views on it are well known and on public record. I don’t have any personal connection to the place other than having known its Chair of Governors Tom Harney for many years. The problem for Wirral Council is this though, it has a very chequered history involving disability issues that the public know about through the press. Such issues weren’t caused by one or two people being prejudiced but a culture at Wirral Council that allowed this to operate.

Now I know there are plenty of politicians at Wirral Council that know what happened in the past was wrong and despite what some people may think about politicians I know that many have a highly developed sense of right and wrong and know in their hearts when they’re asked to vote for something they don’t believe in. Yes, I’m being reasonable to politicians for a change.*

*A rare occasion I know.

The change has to start with them though, the rhetoric has got to change, the demonising of the disabled and minorities in society that they know can’t speak back has got to stop. For that they’ve got to look into their hearts. They’ve got to realise the damage their actions, that their words are doing to society at large, they’ve got to have some understanding of the consequences.

The people involved in the Lyndale School campaign are wonderful, pleasant people. Just because I wrote about what was happening I got sent a thank you card! I’ve never received a thank you card for a story I’ve written on this blog before (or since).

No, don’t be silly I’m never expecting a thank you card for writing about politicians but I’m trying to get across that the people involved with Lyndale School are very different to the political class. Unlike how certain politicians are being portrayed I don’t think many of the people involved in Lyndale School have even one ruthless bone in their entire body.

Yet this has been a struggle for them, they have families to care for and children with very complex and life limiting conditions. Many of them should be rewarded, applauded for the unsung work they do every day, unthanked by some politicians who now propose pulling the rug out from under their feet. The work of unpaid carers doing hard work in difficult circumstances saves the taxpayer billions each year.

The issues involving disability, culture, prejudice and stereotyping are extremely complex. They won’t be solved overnight. The law has changed, such legal battles have been won but society itself needs to catch up. My plea to politicians is to show leadership, to realise the sensitivities of these issues and to realise there are times when the politically right thing is to show compassion, humility and be flexible enough to have an open mind on such issues. The days of prejudice and stereotyping by politicians should be confined to the history books as they no longer have a part to play in 21st century society.

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Councillors hear how 13 consignments of fizzy drinks, spearmint, crab and rice all failed port checks

                         

The Isle of Man Ferry was late coming in to dock as in front was the Viking longboat Draken Harald Hårfagre with a broken mast. As the same gate was used to get to the meeting on the dock we had to wait for the Isle of Man foot passengers to collect their luggage and leave first.

As the councillors and ourselves strode across the dock to the meeting room, the Viking longboat pulled up alongside the meeting room on a sight-seeing tour of the Liverpool docks which almost seemed to give out the message to the politicians of behave otherwise we’ll add you to our list of countries to conquer next.

So, what was the meeting, bobbing along on a floating dock over the beautiful River Mersey about? Well just as the beer ad used to be about “refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach” we were reporting on the public meetings other parts of the media don’t reach. In fact I doubt there had been any public along to this public body’s public meetings for a very, very long time. In fact anyone curious enough to read the agenda would’ve been sent to the wrong place as the agenda had “Gate 2″ whereas those going to meeting entered through “Gate 3″ of the Liverpool Cruise Liner Terminal.

Who were this (and pardon the nautical cliché) motley crew of characters?

Mersey Port Health Committee

Mersey Port Health Committee meeting of the 17th July 2014 Councillor Ron Abbey (Chair) points in the direction of the River Mersey. At the far right are Councillor Dave Mitchell and Councillor Gerry Ellis

Well on the Mersey Port Health Committee was my local councillor, who won our award for scowling before the meeting started Councillor Harry Smith. Also were two former Mayors of Wirral, Councillor Gerry Ellis and Councillor Dave Mitchell who were both friendly. As well as these three there was Councillor Ron Abbey (looking rather stylish in sunglasses).

Apologies were first given for councillors missing from the meeting which included various councillors including Cllr John Salter (Wirral Council’s Cllr John Hale was also absent).

The first decision the crew had to make was to chose a captain (sorry Chair) for the next year. The previous Chair Councillor Ron Abbey was nominated, seconded and elected. Another Labour councillor called Jeremy Wolfson was elected as Vice-Chair.

Councillor Ron Abbey decided to give his speech about his time as captain (sorry Chair) over the last twelve months. He said they had had a “varied and very successful year”, that it was a “very friendly committee” but that it was a “Cinderella organisation”.

Cllr Ron Abbey had a new officer to introduce to the assembled throng. Was it a new deck hand? Was it a comedian with the task of making Cllr Harry Smith smile? Sadly the new guy (called Chris) had the rather duller title of team leader for Information Technology.

The Chair continued by saying about the “quality of staff and the work they do on behalf of us”, asked the Committee to endorse his comments and said that these were “most exciting times”.

Due to no microphones and a room the size of a cavern in which sound gets lost, one of the councillors sitting further away (Cllr Gerry Ellis) asked Cllr Ron Abbey to speak up. Cllr Ron Abbey explained that he hadn’t shouted at him as he felt that upset people. Once again this was an error on the agenda which stated “audio equipment provided as standard”.

No declarations of interest were made and the minutes were agreed. So the meeting rolled on to agenda item 5 (Chief Port Health Officer Report on Activities 2013/14).

The Chief Port Health Officer went through the main points of her report, to do with importing foods. They had lost a post which was now vacant but it had been a “very busy year”. There had also been major changes and a redesign of their website.

Chris (the IT guy) talked at length about the changes, so that students could book training courses and so everything could be done a bit quicker as well as updating policies. There had been some teething issues with some applications in the move from Windows XP to Windows 7. He hoped that they’d have a full set of key performance indicators by the September.

The Chief Port Health Officer explained that there had been a 77p reduction in their charges due to EU legislation which was “out of our hands”. Weights of cargo coming through Liverpool docks varied based on consumer demand. They also had a surveillance role at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, as it was not a port approved for the import of food. However the main responsibility at the airport lay with the UK Border Force.

Thirteen consignments of soda (soft drinks) from America had been sampled and found to have excessive levels of benzoic acid. This had been done due to a grant from the Food Standards Agency. In addition to the fizzy drinks failing tests, so had spearmint (pesticide levels), a food supplement (poly aromatic hydrocarbon levels), crab meat (as additional crab species had been found) and basmati rice (that was only 3% basmati rice and 97% other rice).

In addition to this a consignment of chilli powder had been destroyed due to excessive alfatoxin. During the year, 154 consignments had been subject to official checks. There had also been checks done on ship sanitation, water supplies had been sampled and there had been an increase in routine boardings.

Moving to the Wirral, two cockle beds had been declassified and commercial cockling there was now illegal. There had been a report of illegal gathering of mussels, but after investigation and enforcement patrols the activity had ceased.

In order to qualify as an environmental health officers, people needed to do a length BSc (Hons) or a MSc and then do a practical year of training in port health. However they had incorporated the port health side into student’s degrees so that when they qualified they were qualified as both an environmental health officer and port health officer which opened up extra career opportunities.

A port health awareness day had been held in February to promote the work of port health as some external agencies weren’t aware of the work. One hundred and twenty people had turned up to it. It had been a busy year and would be a challenging year ahead, she was happy to answer questions.

Councillor Dave Mitchell referred to it as a “comprehensive report, brilliantly done as always”. He had two questions. In relation to sampling he asked if they had talked with the relevant government department to make it a national rather than local cost?

She explained that it was very difficult but there were provisions. If a sample failed again they could request the importer pays for the cost. Taking the fizzy drinks as an example, if they continued to fail checks then the Food Safety Agency issued guidance and reimbursed their costs.

Councillor Mitchell asked his second question about fish. The answer given was that the importer would have to pay.

The Chair Cllr Ron Abbey referred to the lobbying government so that the activities of the port were funded by central government. Local authorities’ contribution to port health was only small. Another councillor asked about the enforcement of infectious diseases and how this could be effective on short duration flights as the probabilities of symptoms being displayed were small as opposed to a ship?

The officer said that the air regulations were different to shipping in that they placed a responsibility on the airline. A scoping exercise had been done on the countries they say as high risks. For example it was the responsibility of the airline to disinfect its places coming from a country with malaria. This would hopefully minimise the risk.

Another councillor asked if they could increase their charges? Cllr Ron Abbey (Chair) said that they were looking to decrease to make them more competitive but it would be eighteen months before they’d see an impact. Goods consumed locally were still being shipped through Southampton rather than Liverpool. He said it was a “balancing act” which they were monitoring to reduce the burden on local councils to a minimum via the precept. An officer said there was an increase in products coming through the port and the variety.

Councillor Richard Wenstone asked if they would be setting their own key performance indicators or this would be done nationally? The officer answered that they would set their own as there were no national standards key performance indicators. For example the time it took them to process documentation. Other big ports had key performance indicators.

An officer said that theirs were published on their website and in conversations with ship agents certain importers wanted key performance indicators. A logistical benefit of Liverpool was the Liverpool Ship Canal whereas there was more congestion in the ports in the southern part of the country.

Councillor Harry Smith asked about the significant consignments? The officer answered lamb and pork. Another councillor asked about how far ahead the training had been taken up to which the answer was December 2014. The report was noted.

Agenda item 6 was the quarterly report from January to March of 2014. Cllr Gerry Ellis asked about cockling and what was the story? The officer relied that the complaint was of illegal gathering, an officer had conducted surveillance following the complaint but the complainant was unwilling to make a witness statement. As the surveillance hadn’t caught any illegal activity the complaint couldn’t progress.

Councillor Gerry Ellis asked a further question. Cllr Ron Abbey said they couldn’t take further action as the complainant was unwilling and didn’t want to make a witness statement. The officer said that on the surveillance visits they didn’t see illegal gathering of cockles and in the absence of a witness statement they can’t take further action.

Councillor Ron Abbey pointed out they were closed bays and that commercial activity was therefore illegal. Cockling collection however could still go on as long as it was not commercial. They had responsibility for the tidal side and the police had responsibility for further inland. Cllr Gerry Ellis asked if declassified meant closed?

Cllr Ron Abbey said they were closed to commercial cockling as the cockles were too young or there were not enough for commercial cockling. This gave them time to grow again, the cockling beds were worth millions of pounds as commercial cocklers had gathered £90 million of cockles. Cllr Ellis asked another question to which Cllr Ron Abbey replied “closed”.

In response to a further question of Cllr Ellis Cllr Abbey said that there were different categories, but it was a trade thing so they knew if it was declassified it didn’t have a classification. To take (for commercial reasons) from a declassified bed was illegal.

A councillor asked why there was no mention of Peel Holdings in the report? The Chair said that without them Peel couldn’t operate inspection facilities but they had often had to meet with senior management of Peel to sort out issues. He referred to issues raised at the last meeting with Peel about the docks. The officer said that Peel Holdings were the port operator, but that they (port health) had statutory controls over imported food, enforcement of the regulations and health regulations. The port health authority worked together with Peel Holdings in partnership.

A councillor asked about the financial impact. Cllr Ron Abbey said that without the board doing its job and inspection the port would be greatly diminished. So they worked hand in hand with Peel. They wanted to support Peel to bring more goods through the port as it was more money. Bringing more through meant diversifying but as well as delivering they were putting something back through their training. He gave credit to the staff. The report was noted.

The next meeting was agreed to be held at 11.00am on Thursday 16th October 2014 with the venue announced nearer the time.

The Chair announced one item of any other business (referred to earlier involving the vacancy) for which the public (all two of us) were excluded from the rest of the meeting.

We left and found the way out of through gate 3 was locked. I returned and complained but the way out was not unlocked until the councillors had finished their meeting.

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How did 62 Wirral Council councillors vote on Lyndale School?

                                      

This continues from yesterday’s Councillors ask Labour to keep Lyndale School open; Labour defers decision on Lyndale to September Cabinet meeting.

Councillor Jeff Green said that the children attending Lyndale School had complex and profound medical conditions with a significant number being life limiting. In his opinion they had a moral obligation to meet the wishes of the parents to continue their child’s education at Lyndale. He said that the direct schools grant was ring-fenced for education so no savings would be made by closing Lyndale.

He continued by referring to the over ten thousand people that had signed a petition against closure. If Lyndale closed, the children would transfer to other schools which catered for children with very different needs. Cllr Green referred to the review of primary places and the reasons given by officers for closing Kingsway Primary School in Seacombe. The Conservative councillors had voted to keep it open and it had thrived since receiving an outstanding OFSTED inspection. He asked the [Labour] administration to have a change of heart and keep the school open as it was a facility doing an “outstanding job”.

The Mayor (Cllr Steve Foulkes) said it had been remiss of his not to congratulate Cllr Pat Cleary on his maiden speech. He asked Cllr Hayes to give his right to reply.

Cllr Hayes also took the opportunity to congratulate Cllr Cleary on his maiden speech and referred to what Cllr Cleary had said earlier about a previous consultation where the Leader of the Council had expedited a proposal based on an early evaluation of consultation responses. He asked why is it they have to wait till 4th September when the consultation ended on the 25th June? In debating the notice of motion Council was taking a view and making a recommendation which it had done many times on different issues.

He referred to the consultation process and the glowing terms and how it was held out as an example of good practice by both Cllr Phil Davies and Cllr Tony Smith. However questions put by parents to Wirral Council had been answered on the final day of the consultation, so where was the “equality of arms”. He said it was time to end the “misery and pain” and time that the Cabinet made a resolution that Lyndale was to remain open.

A card vote was called for. The first vote was on Labour’s amendment (to defer any decision on the future of Lyndale School to a special meeting of Cabinet in September).

Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour) FOR
Cllr Tom Anderson (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Bruce Berry (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Chris Blakeley (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Eddie Boult (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Alan Brighouse (Liberal Democrat) AGAINST
Cllr Philip Brightmore (Labour) FOR
Cllr Chris Carubia (Liberal Democrat) AGAINST
Cllr Pat Cleary (Green) AGAINST
Cllr Jim Crabtree (Labour) FOR
Cllr Matt Daniel (Labour) FOR
Cllr George Davies (Labour) FOR
Cllr Phil Davies (Labour) FOR
Cllr Bill Davies (Labour) FOR
Cllr Paul Doughty (Labour) FOR
Cllr David Elderton (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Gerry Ellis (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Steve Foulkes (Labour) ABSTAIN
Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat) AGAINST
Cllr Jeff Green (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Robert Gregson (Labour) FOR
Cllr Pat Hackett (Labour) FOR
Cllr Paul Hayes (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Andrew Hodson (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Kathy Hodson (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Mike Hornby (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Treena Johnson (Labour) FOR
Cllr Adrian Jones (Labour) FOR
Cllr Chris Jones (Labour) FOR
Cllr Stuart Kelly (Liberal Democrat) AGAINST
Cllr Anita Leech (Labour) FOR
Cllr Ann McLachlan (Labour) FOR
Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) FOR
Cllr Dave Mitchell (Liberal Democrat) AGAINST
Cllr Bernie Mooney (Labour) FOR
Cllr Christina Muspratt (Labour) FOR
Cllr Steve Niblock (Labour) FOR
Cllr Tony Norbury (Labour) FOR
Cllr Matthew Patrick (Labour) FOR
Cllr Denise Realey (Labour) FOR
Cllr Louise Reecejones (Labour) FOR
Cllr Lesley Rennie (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Les Rowlands (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr John Salter (Labour) FOR
Cllr Harry Smith (Labour) FOR
Cllr Tony Smith (Labour) FOR
Cllr Tracey Smith (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Walter Smith (Labour) FOR
Cllr Chris Spriggs (Labour) FOR
Cllr Jean Stapleton (Labour) FOR
Cllr Mike Sullivan (Labour) FOR
Cllr Adam Sykes (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Joe Walsh (Labour) FOR
Cllr Geoffrey Watt (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Stuart Whittingham (Labour) FOR
Cllr Irene Williams (Labour) FOR
Cllr Jerry Williams (Labour) FOR
Cllr Pat Williams (Liberal Democrat) AGAINST
Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Janette Williamson (Labour) FOR

The vote was announced as 35 in favour, 26 against with one abstention. There was then a card vote on the motion (as amended by Labour’s amendment).

So the decision made was to defer a decision on Lyndale School to a special meeting of the Cabinet on September 4th.

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REVEALED: Grant Thornton’s previously secret £50,0000 report into how Wirral Council played the regeneration game

                          

If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call (Grant Thornton)
If it’s somethin’ weird and it won’t look good
Who ya gonna call (Grant Thornton)

Yes, my challenge for today is “making accountants sound interesting” (wish me luck)!

So where to start this tale that has about as much twists, turns and complexity as a Dan Brown thriller? Well in order to keep your attention and not send you to sleep I’ll be comparing what happened to far more exciting things (as this blog isn’t called “101 fascinating tales of bean counting”).

Wirral Council paid a company called Enterprise Solutions (NW) Limited approximately a million pounds for work done on a program called ISUS (a program to support businesses). It also paid them for work on another scheme called BIG (a business grants program). However something had gone wrong so Wirral Council sent in a crack team of accountants from Grant Thornton to investigate.

Grant Thornton as Ghostbusters
This blog has no file photo of Grant Thornton’s crack team of accountants, so using perhaps more artistic licence than is necessary this is the blogger’s impression of them (from the film Ghostbusters) (although being accountants they were probably wearing suits instead).

This intrepid team (who were paid ~£50,000 for all this) went to interview the whistleblowers who worked for Enterprise Solutions (NW) Limited to find out what had happened. As Enterprise Solutions (NW) Ltd is an absurdly long name that takes forever to type I will from now on instead be calling them the USS Enterprise instead.

There was trouble on the USS Enterprise and the whistleblowers said (this is a summary of hundreds of page of a report) that the “the engines cannae’ take it anymore”. Money was being fed into the USS Enterprise’s engines from Wirral Council. Its mission was to seek out new businesses and boldly help them (in the form of grants and other assistance). However the whistleblowers knew that thing were going very wrong and detailed the who, what, where, why and when.

The crack team from Grant Thornton heard what the whistleblowers had to say and then tried to investigate what had happened. They even went to the USS Enterprise to investigate further and spent three days there.

However, someone senior on the USS Enterprise heard about this and perhaps frightened that they might find something that would lead to a court-martial prevented Grant Thornton from setting foot on the ship ever again. This was despite the contract between Wirral Council and the USS Enterprise stating that Wirral Council could have access to their “accounts and records” (although there’s a long running controversy as to whether this contract was ever signed). This didn’t however deter (much) the crack team of accountants who then wrote (as best they could) reports on both the BIG and ISUS programs.

These reports went to Wirral Council, who then refused to publish them, giving the reason that they had referred some of the matters in it to the Merseyside Police. They felt that publishing it would prejudice any potential future criminal prosecutions (but there are also others that felt this was an extremely convenient excuse to prevent Wirral Council being embarrassed by what Grant Thornton had discovered).

A long, long time later the Merseyside Police got back in touch with Wirral Council with a letter that can be summed up by we can’t charge or ask the CPS to prosecute people in this matter as the police had been denied access to key evidence they’d need.

So then Wirral Council convened a special meeting of its Audit and Risk Management Committee to discuss the whole matter.

That is it in a nutshell (leaving an awful lot out too). The detailed nature of what the whistleblowers alleged is far beyond a few hundred words I have here to do justice to and I’m sure will be discussed next Tuesday evening at a special meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee.

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Councillors ask Labour to keep Lyndale School open; Labour defers decision on Lyndale to September Cabinet meeting

                            

On Monday evening the issue of the future of Lyndale School was debated by Wirral Council councillor for about forty-five minutes. I’m going to try and sum up what was said and decided in a short blog post so inevitably I will be leaving some things out.

The notice of motion by the Conservatives and Labour’s amendment to it is already covered here. The response from the Lyndale parents is here, in addition to that there were a further ninety or so responses to the consultation.

Cllr Paul Hayes (proposing the motion to keep the school open) started by referring to the consultation response by Lyndale parents and the passion and “strength of feeling” he’d observed at a recent consultation meeting (which you can listen to in full). He said he hoped all councillors had received a copy of the consultation response.

The Mayor Cllr Steve Foulkes said that some councillors had received it on the day of the meeting and that he didn’t believe they could be expected to read it in full as they hadn’t had time to digest it.

Cllr Paul Hayes continued by referring to an earlier consultation on Kingsway Primary School and the similarities between the two. He was critical of an officer chairing the Lyndale School closure consultation meeting and said that as well as the majority of people feeling that the officer wasn’t neutral, he also described him as “rude and dismissive”. He described the consultation process as “farcical”.

Cllr Stuart Kelly asked whether Labour’s amendment should be ruled out of order as it was negating the original motion. Labour’s motion deleted all paragraphs in the original motion bar one line. He said surely the same effect could be achieved by voting against the motion?

The Mayor (Cllr Steve Foulkes) said he would allow a legal opinion, but it had been a difficult decision on his part to allow the notice of motion on Lyndale School to be debated. From his point of view he felt that Cllr Stuart Kelly “didn’t have a leg to stand on” with regards to the [Labour] amendment being ruled out of order.

Surjit Tour said that the notice of motion referred it to the Cabinet as the final decision rested with te Cabinet. The amendment also did exactly the same in referring it to a special meeting in September. Therefore in his view the amendment was lawful.

The Mayor said that points of order was not the way he wanted to open the debate and asked the mover of the amendment to speak.

Cllr Phil Davies said that it had been agreed some time ago that they need to have a special Cabinet meeting and that there had been a very detailed consultation exercise, the results of which they had not yet seen. In his view the consultation responses were a “hugely important piece of evidence” which the Cabinet needed to consider before taking a view. To take the clear view expressed in the Conservative notice of motion before the special Cabinet meeting was “premature” as they would be making the decision now in advance of the special meeting. He was also very concerned that if the notice of motion was agreed then they would fall foul of predetermination. He thought it was a shame that Cllr Hayes had said that officers were not neutral.

He continued by referring to his time as Cabinet Member and again referred to the claim that officers were not neutral. Cllr Davies said that the amendment asked that they take no action on the motion tonight but refer it. Again he said that he was worried if they agreed the motion it would have predetermined the outcome before the Cabinet had considered the evidence, but there was no question that Lyndale School provided a “unique and caring environment”. He had visited the school but it was essential he had an open mind and considered all the evidence. He worried that if they made a decision tonight then they would be completely ignoring important evidence that they had not yet seen.

Cllr Andrew Hodson referred to his daughter who had learning difficulties, despite being in her 30s she had a mental age of nine. He considered himself lucky that she had her full health, but that the children at Lyndale had complicated health needs. Although his daughter lived in an establishment she still had her independence in fact [Cllr] George [Davies] had been at the opening.

He referred to the Corporate Plan about protecting vulnerable people and how Lyndale School was an essential service that met people’s complex needs. The staff at Lyndale were geared up to making sure that while receiving an education the children were safe and well cared for. He was perplexed by the decision as the Council would not benefit financially from the closure of Lyndale School so why do it? He finished by making a plea to keep the school open.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist said that the Childrens and Young People Department had told him they had received ninety response and that he had had time to read the documents. He knew that members of the Council had been concerned about the future especially [former] Councillor Tom Harney. He referred to the document received at the weekend and referred to the reference in it to a working party.

Cllr Gilchrist referred to the space that children using wheelchairs need, children with epilepsy, those require oxygen and those who required time consuming feeding. He had attended two of the consultation meetings and concurred with Cllr Paul Hayes’ description. He referred again to the parents’ response to the consultation quoting from it and that it may be September by the time the issue was resolved. He said that the high needs budget for 2013/14 was £31.7 million.

After being given extra time, he referred to the strain on families, the SEN Improvement Test and said that if they wished, councillors on the Cabinet could choose not to vote on this notice of motion (and amendment). The notice of motion was about Council’s view.

Councillor Dave Mitchell said that the way the process worked was that councillors who stood were indicating that they wished to speak in the debate and that if no Labour councillors stood up then councillors who wished to speak should still be allowed to address the Council. Cllr Chris Blakeley said he had no objections.

The Mayor (Cllr Steve Foulkes) said that if that was an early test, that he would decide what goes on, who was asked and which councillor would make a contribution.

Councillor Dave Mitchell said that he’d pick up on the point made by Cllr Paul Hayes at the start. He too had been surprised at the way the presentation had been presented by officers to the parents and that the parents knew what was required and that the parents were the ones who should be listened to. Cllr Mitchell recommended that councillors read every page of the parent’s response to the consultation and absorb every part as it “rips to shreds” the proposal [to close the school] and deals with the real issue which was the children.

Cllr Mitchell continued by saying that it had nothing to do with the schools formula funding as it was all there set by the government and had never been taken away. This was not the case with education funding and the way the funding was divvied out was decided by Cabinet. One of the problems that concerned him with the consultation itself was the way parents had asked questions to officers and had no responses till the last day of the consultation.

Cllr Pat Williams objected to the Mayor refusing to let her speak. She said she was being deprived of her democratic right and that she’d been elected by the people of Oxton to speak.

The Mayor [Cllr Steve Foulkes] changed his mind and agreed to let her speak after all.

Cllr Pat Williams said that during the consultation period it was made abundantly clear that the appropriate place was to let the children remain at Lyndale School. She referred to the petition against closure of nearly 11,000 signatures which demonstrated how much Lyndale School was valued as a unique asset. She like other councillors referred to the parents response to the consultation and wanted the profound and complex needs of the children fairly reflected in the funding.

She had visited the school and was always most impressed by the caring an dedication of the staff and when she was Mayor had had the pleasure of formally opening the sensory garden. The consultation had ended and it was overwhelming apparent that Lyndale School should stay. She asked councillors to take note and resolve that Lyndale was to remain open.

Councillor Pat Cleary (the new Green Party councillor) said that he wanted to make a brief point. He said that Lyndale School doesn’t have to be closed and he appreciated the sincere feelings. He was disappointed as he didn’t understand the Labour councillors not engaging.

One issue he wanted to raise was that 18 months ago there had been a letter from the Leader of the Council during the What Really Matters consultation about whether local elections should only be held once every four years. It had been said that the reason the proposal was being brought forward was that early analysis of the consultation results had shown 91% supporting this change. In that instance a recommendation had been brought forward before the consultation was finished, he wanted to know why the current situation was any different?

Cllr Tony Smith said that he agreed that the uncertainty about Lyndale School must be resolved and had been an ongoing concern for a number of years. The consultation had been undertaken, but reducing numbers of children on the school roll, changes in funding arrangements and questions about the future viability of the school were the reasons behind the consultation. He stressed that the consultation was not about the quality of the education.

He continued by saying that any decision about future provision would be informed by individual needs and make sure people’s requirements were fully met. The government required the [SEN Improvement] test to be undertaken to show that the proposal was as good as or better than the children’s current provision. He said that they would make sure they had an up to date understanding of each child’s needs.

They had undertaken a consultation and there was oversight from the [Wirral] Schools Forum. The original decision had been called in and it was made clear then at the outset that the process should be open and transparent over the twelve week consultation.

Prior to the consultation starting, there had been a meeting with parent governors of Lyndale and throughout the consultation six public meetings. Eighty-five people from the community had turned up to these, with some attending more than one. Wirral Council had commissioned an independent person to consider each of the published options and any new options and consider the application of the government’s [SEN Improvement] test. All councillors had also been invited on an escorted bus tour which included Lyndale School. Twenty-two councillors had taken part in these visits on the 16th/17th June. He made the assurance that all information relevant to the consultation would be made publically available prior to the Cabinet meeting to inform the decision making when the Cabinet would be taking all factors into account such as the needs and welfare of each individual child.

Cllr Jeff Green (seconder to the Conservative motion) reminded people that when Cllr Tony Smith spoke that closure is a preferred option. He reminded people why it was called in and referred to the speeches of Cllrs Hayes, Gilchrist, Mitchell and others (as well as congratulating Cllr Cleary on his maiden speech). He said a maiden speech was normally held in silence but the response from Labour councillors was because he’d beaten them in an election.

Cllr Green said that Lyndale was unique and incredibly special and that that needed to be safeguarded.

Continues at How did 62 Wirral Council councillors vote on Lyndale School?.

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Did officers breach Wirral Council’s constitution when they sent out the eviction notice for Fernbank Farm?

                        

This is the story about what happened behind the scenes when the tenants of Fernbank Farm were sent an eviction notice in the July of 2012. However before this tale starts I need to explain about some of the people involved.

Bill Norman

The person above is Bill Norman. He was the Council’s Director of Law, HR (which stands for human resources) and Asset Management. On the 27th June 2012 he was suspended from work because of how the Colas contract was awarded, however it is important to point out that in September councillors found there was “no case to answer” with regards to wrongdoing on Bill Norman’s part. By this time his post had been made redundant so he signed a compromise contract and left the employment of Wirral Council and got a golden goodbye of £151,416 (comprising of £112,848 termination payment, £28,568 redundancy payment, £5,000 legal costs and £5,000 legal costs direct to Bill Norman). This brings us now to the next person.

Surjit Tour

Surjit Tour is the person on the left of this photo. During the period Bill Norman was suspended, (that is from 27th June 2012 onwards) he was Acting Director of Law, Human Resources and Asset Management.

On Friday 13th July 2012 an eviction notice was signed and so was a letter accompanying the eviction notice. The letter and two copies of each eviction notice were sent out to each tenant with a request that the second copy of the eviction notice was returned to Wirral Council.

The letter used is below and below that page one of the eviction notice (you can click on it for a more high resolution version). I have erased from both documents the home address of the tenant it went to, the name of which tenant it went to and the signature of the tenant from the copy of the eviction notice returned.

Letter accompanying eviction notice
Letter accompanying eviction notice

Eviction notice
Eviction notice (page 1)

Wirral Council has a constitution which determines how decisions are made and whether they’re made by officers or councillors. The detail of this was determined by a very dull bit of Wirral Council’s constitution at the time called Schedule 4: Scheme of Delegation to Officers.

Under section 38 it details the responsibilities of the Director of Law, HR and Asset Management.

“The Director of Law, HR and Asset Management is authorised,
….
In respect of Property Management functions:

(12) Authorise the grant and renewal of leases, tenancies and agreements of land and premises at current market rentals subject (where appropriate) to the receipt of satisfactory references and planning consent and (as appropriate) the termination thereof.

(14) Approve the review of rents reserved by existing leases and tenancy agreements of Council land and property at current market rental levels.

In respect of trading standards, environmental health and related functions and responsibilities:
(46) Subject to paragraph (2) below, take any action under any relevant legislation (and related statutory instruments) including, where relevant (but not limited to), the service of notices
….
Relevant legislation under this paragraph shall include but is not limited to:

Landlord and Tenant Acts 1954, 1985 and 1987″

Now obviously Bill Norman couldn’t authorise the renewal of the lease or approve an increase in rent or agree to an eviction notice being served because he was suspended so he would have hardly been given a look at this before it was sent out!

Section 14 deals with this eventuality (note the Director of Law, HR and Asset Management is one of the officers referred to in paragraph 2):

“In the event of a Chief Officer referred to in paragraph 2 not being available for whatever reason, his/her Deputy (or, where there is no officer designated as such, the next most appropriate senior officer of the department) shall be authorised to implement approved delegated arrangements.”

Now as Acting Head of Law, HR and Asset Management while Bill Norman was suspended, Surjit Tour was deputising for Bill Norman during his suspension. However Surjit Tour’s signature does not appear on the letter or the eviction notice.

Section 3(a) states

“3. (a) Unless otherwise provided for within this scheme every officer listed in paragraph 2, may authorise officers in his/her department/service area to exercise on his/her behalf, functions delegated to him/her. Any decisions taken under this authority shall remain the responsibility of the relevant officer named in paragraph 2 above and must be taken in the name of that officer, who shall
remain accountable and responsible for such decisions.”

However Bill Norman couldn’t authorise officers in his department to exercise functions on his behalf as he was suspended! However the letter went out in his name. Bill Norman’s name was at the top right of the letter and the person signing it had below their name “Director of Law, HR and Asset Management”.

Here’s a comparison between Surjit Tour’s signature (below) and the signature on the eviction notice.

comparison of signature on eviction notice to Surjit Tour's

Here’s the signature used on the letter (again it wasn’t Surjit Tour’s):

letter signature

So to conclude, the letter and eviction notice about the Fernbank Farm lease should’ve both been signed by the Acting Director of Law, HR and Asset Management (but weren’t). Instead they both went out in the name of Bill Norman (who was suspended). Bill Norman can’t have seen the letter and eviction notice before it went out, therefore how could he have authorised the officers that did sign the letter and eviction notice to do this on his behalf? If the signatures had been on someone else’s behalf pp would have been put before the signature to show that they were signing on behalf of someone else. This didn’t happen.

If Surjit Tour agreed to other officers signing the eviction notice and letter on his behalf (instead of signing them himself), then he didn’t have the authority under the constitution to do so as he was only Acting Director of Law, HR and Asset Management.

I think the most likely eventuality is that junior officers, who weren’t authorised under the constitution to make such decisions, signed the letter and eviction notice because Bill Norman was suspended and therefore unavailable. Surjit Tour should’ve been asked to do it, but if he had been asked, then why wouldn’t his signature be on the documentation? Therefore this seems to have been done without his knowledge.

So what are your views on this? Did junior officers sign off on something and make an unconstitutional decision? Is this maladministration? If the decision wasn’t properly made in the first place but Wirral Council went to court and got a possession order, what should happen next? Is this what Wirral Council mean when in a later letter dated 14th March 2014 they state “I do not believe the authority intentionally used the wrong letter in July 2012.”?

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Councillor Leah “answer the question” Fraser asks Cllr Adrian “humane” Jones to quantify compulsory redundancies

                       

I thought I would start my write-up of last night’s Council meeting with a short tale of last night’s Council meeting. This is about the bit where councillors get to ask questions of Cabinet Members and it was Councillor Adrian Jones’ turn.

Conservative councillor Leah Fraser asked him about item 1 on his report. She said that now the date had passed for people to apply for early retirement or voluntary severance had passed, how many compulsory redundancies would there be?

Labour Councillor Adrian Jones replied to Cllr Fraser by reminding her that a previous Conservative administration had made 1,100 staff redundant, to which Cllr Fraser heckled “answer the question”. Then she got told by the Mayor it was not her role to interrogate Cllr Jones to which she replied he’s not answering the question.

Councillor Adrian Jones continued by commenting on what a previous Conservative administration had done and commented on the funding that the government had taken away before moving to other councillor’s questions about the Merseyside Pension Fund and software.

Councillor Leah Fraser was not happy! In fact I’d go so far as to say she looked visibly annoyed. She wanted an answer to her question but how would she get it? So question in hand she got up and strode across the chamber to the Mayor Cllr Foulkes and handed her written question to him. He repeated her question. Cllr Adrian Jones asked him to repeat the question so Cllr Foulkes did and it was asked for a third time.

Cllr Adrian Jones answered that Wirral Council were not making staff redundant but the government was through its cuts and followed up by saying that he felt it was being done on a more “humane basis” that a previous Conservative/Lib Dem administration had done so.

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Hear what was said at the Lyndale School Closure Consultation Meeting (16th June 2014)

                             

Above is audio from the two hour consultation meeting during the consultation on the closure of Lyndale School

Above is audio from the two-hour consultation meeting held at the Acre Lane Professional Excellence Centre on the 16th June 2014. I’ve been writing about it on this blog, but so far have just got to over half way through the meeting. If you’d like to read what I’ve previously written about the consultation meeting, links to the various parts are below.

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Tom Harney “it’s amazing the things that go on” (part 8)
Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Funding, banding and need (part 7)
Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Kingsway, funding and hydrotherapy pools (part 6)
Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about the sensory garden, resources, Elleray Park and Stanley (Part 5)
Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about Stanley, Elleray, Foxfield & the educational psychologist (Part 4)
Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about banding, outdoor space and Stanley School (Part 3)
Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: David Armstrong explains why there’s a consultation and questions begin (Part 2)
Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Julia Hassall explains why Wirral Council are consulting on closure (Part 1)
.

Part 6 includes the Conservative notice of motion to the Council meeting on the 14th July and a blog post I wrote earlier today titled Strange: Labour refuse to take decision on Lyndale School tonight based on abolished predetermination rule goes into detail about how Labour’s amendment will change that notice of motion if agreed.

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What was the response from the Lyndale School parents to the closure consultation?

 

Parents’ Response to Wirral Council Consultation Document on the Closure of The Lyndale School

16th June 2014

We ask that the Cabinet take the following into consideration as a response to the Consultation Document on the Closure of Lyndale School, hereafter referred to as ‘the Consultation Document’. It is a representation of the views of the parents of the children at Lyndale, given that the children cannot respond in their own right.

Good services are individualised and person-centred. Good services treat the family as experts’

 

Raising Our Sights1

Wirral will be a place where the vulnerable are safe and protected…..and where good health and an excellent quality of life is within the reach of everyone who lives here

 

Wirral Borough Council Corporate Plan 2014 – 20162

Readers of this response, may find it useful to read Wirral LA’s
‘Report seeking to Consult on the Closure of the Lyndale School’ available at

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50016156/Lyndale%20School%20Report.pdf
and

Wirral LA’s ‘Consultation Document – The Lyndale School’ at

http://www.wirral.gov.uk/downloads/6740

For any enquiries about this document please contact dawnhughes41@gmail.com

 

Amendments and Corrections

5th July 2014

Please note that since this document was submitted to Wirral Council on the 25th of June 2014, there have been one or two amendments made to correct typographical errors and omissions. These are listed below:-

  1. The table in para 3.18 shows that there should be 26 children at Lyndale in Spring term 2013 – 14. This table was collated using the Council’s own estimated figures for this term. However, there are actually now 22 children at Lyndale because, very sadly, there have been a number of children who have passed away this past year.

  2. In the version of this document sent to Wirral Council, it says in para 6.23 that there are 9 children at Lyndale who require gastrostomy feeds. This is a typographical error. There are in fact 16, and this has been altered in this version to correct this mistake.

  3. In para 6.57 we have written that Stanley school is fully occupied and the Elleray Park is oversubscribed. This is an error. In fact, both schools are oversubscribed based on figures obtained by Lyndale parents from the schools themselves. (See para. 6.7)

Introduction

1.1 The Children and Young People’s Department (CYPD), are overseeing the Consultation on the Closure of Lyndale School. They say the following factors are generally taken into account when considering the closure of any school. These are:-

• ‘Viability and sustainability

 

Quality and standards

 

Diversity and pattern of parental preference

 

Pupil numbers

 

Financial implications and value for money

 

Travel

 

Buildings and site

 

Implications for staff3

There are no headings for

‘Implications for children’ or

 

‘Assessment of needs of children’.

1.2 For a school like Lyndale, where children are very disabled, and therefore vulnerable, any consultation should consider the health, well-being and educational needs of the children as the top priority. That is why in this document we aim to come at the issue from a different perspective – one that considers the needs of the children of Lyndale, and those at the other SEN schools on Wirral first. This should be the overarching concept which informs the whole discussion, and parents feel that the actual needs of the children should have been assessed before any consultation was embarked upon.

1.3 The needs of the children at Lyndale are only just being assessed 10 weeks into the consultation. Parents requested the assessments, so that the Local Authority (LA) could work out how much it costs to educate and care for Lyndale children. We still don’t know how long it will take for the LA to collate information from supporting professionals. In any case, parents have now been told that no costing will follow from the assessments, which means that they are to no avail.

1.4 Wirral LA has recently designed a new funding system for Special Educational Needs (SEN) schools in the area, in response to National Government structural funding changes. But parents feel that the LA has worked backwards, first considering how much it has to spend, and then trying to fit all other considerations within this limit.

1.5 Up until now, Lyndale has received around £33,000 per child per year to cater for the pupil’s very complex needs, but under the new funding system, this amount has been reduced to £26,000. There has been a cut to each child’s funding of £7,000 per year. No-one from the LA has yet demonstrated how the drop in funding will not lead to a decline in care – wherever the children are educated.

1.6 Many of the questions parents have raised since the first meeting with the Director of the CYPD in December 2013 remain unanswered to date (16th June 2014), and some of the answers we have received don’t bear any relation to the question, or give minimal and inadequate information. Without adequate answers to these questions, parents cannot contribute their views on the SEN Improvement Test from an informed position.

1.7 Wirral LA have cited The Lyndale School’s small size, falling pupil roll and national changes to SEN funding as reasons as to why they think the school cant survive financially into the future, and we will attempt to address all of these issues in the following pages.

1.8 However, none of the above reasons are the true causes of Lyndale’s financial difficulties. How money is allocated to schools is, in some senses, irrelevant. Different areas use different systems. Parents believe that Wirral LA have used their new funding system as an opportunity to cut Lyndale’s budget. Lyndale was financially viable last year, and now it isn’t. That is because Wirral LA will not give it enough money to look after the children there. This is despite there being no cuts to Education Budgets nationally. Local Authorities cannot claim that they have less money in their education pot because of national cuts – it is untrue. However, parents have discovered that Wirral LA has proposed that part of it’s Education Budget should be used to fund huge Private Finance Initiative (PFI) payments to a private company, which were previously paid for out of the wider Council budget.4 This creates a massive self-imposed cut to the Education Budget, which could mean that schools like Lyndale have to be sacrificed for the Council’s decisions made around PFI in the past.

1.9 Lyndale is a school which caters for children with the very highest level of need in our community, and it takes children from all over Wirral. The school has supported these very special children and their families for many years now. We have to remember that these children don’t just cope with disability and the obstacles to daily life that any disability brings; they also cope with feeling very unwell on a regular basis, and almost all the children at Lyndale have life-limiting conditions. Closing down one of the only places they have which provides support and comfort to them and their families is unconscionable. Lyndale is a centre of specialised educational and medical expertise and it is an essential service.

1.10 Since Wirral Local Authority have said that the Council will not benefit financially from the closure of Lyndale, and that the school, ‘…is not being put forward [for closure] because of the quality of education or standards at the school,5 parents are perplexed as to the reason why Lyndale is being put forward for closure at all, when the benefits it provides to children and their families are unquestioned.

1.11 Very recently a working party between members of Wirral LA and parent governors has been formed to look at options for Lyndale’s future, and this is a promising development, which is welcomed by parents. However, parents felt that a response to the Consultation Document should still be produced so that their views are fully represented in writing.

Overview of SEN Provision on Wirral

2.1 We understand that for most people the world of Special Educational Needs is an unfamiliar one. We want anyone reading this document to have the basic information needed to understand what all the different terms mean, and to have an idea of the current provision on Wirral. We have listed some terms below.

CLD- Complex Learning Difficulty. This is a broad term which just means that CLD children have several different conditions which overlap, creating a complex and individual picture of disability for each particularchild. These conditions may or may not include a physical disability. Within this category there are several sub groups, some of which are:-

 

PMLD- Profound and Multiple Learning Disability. These children have severe physical disabilities and mobility problems. They can have additional medical problems like epilepsy, digestive or respiratory difficulties. Often communication is difficult and many may have hearing or vision impairments.

ASD- Autistic Spectrum Disorder. This condition affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. Children with ASD can find it difficult to gauge the emotions of others, have delayed language development, and restricted and repetitive patterns of thought and behaviours. They can become upset if routines are disrupted. Children can have varying levels of learning difficulties ranging from quite mild to very severe.

BESD- Behavioural Emotional and Social Difficulties. These children can be withdrawn or isolated, display disruptive or challenging behaviour, be hyperactive, lack concentration, and have difficulty with social skills. They can become easily frustrated and have difficulty controlling behaviour.

ADHD- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Thiscan often be part of other conditions like ASD. These children can have problems concentrating or paying attention. They can be impulsive, have difficulty thinking about consequences before they act, and become easily frustrated. They can have difficulty controlling behaviour.

2.2 We could broadly say that PMLD children have great physical disability, and that those with ASD, BESD and ADHD would have more difficulties relating to cognition and behaviour, although there are lots of grey areas, where exceptions and cross-over between disabilities exist.

2.3 There are several other various types of learning difficulty like SLCN (Speech, Language and Communication Difficulties) for example. These may or may not be part of another condition. Often terms are quite general and do not adequately describe individual children who can have several of the above disabilities at once. Even within the above categories there may be varying levels of disability, ranging from quite mild to very severe. The exception to this might be PMLD, because although there are different levels of disability even within this group, the term itself would indicate a person with severe physical, communication, cognitive and health issues.

2.4 So, in summary, CLD is an overarching term which indicates moderate to severe learning difficulty, and can include conditions such as ASD or PMLD.

2.5 These are the terms we are most concerned with regarding the Lyndale issue, because although there are other schools on Wirral which cater for mild to moderate learning difficulties, there are only 5 schools which cater for CLD children.

Primary CLD schools are:-

Stanley School which currently caters for children with conditions like ASD, ADHD or BESD. There are no severely physically disabled or PMLD children at Stanley School.

Elleray Park caters for children who have ASD and varying other types of learning disabilities. It has a small number of children with PMLD. These children are not separated from the rest of the children at school.

Lyndale School where the majority of it’s pupils are defined as having PMLD. There are also some mobile children with various learning difficulties, but none with challenging behaviour.

Secondary CLD schools are:-

Foxfield School. The majority of it’s pupils have conditions like ASD, ADHD or BESD. It has a small number of children with PMLD, which are separated from the rest of the school. It is currently being rebuilt to improve accommodation.

Meadowside mostly caters for children with ASD and various other learning disabilities. It has a small number of PMLD children who are not separated from the rest of the children at school.

2.6 These 5 schools cater for a broad range of CLD children, but we can see that different schools cater for different types of disability. Some have specialised even further like Stanley and Lyndale Schools.

2.7 NB The Children and Young People’s Department (CYPD) is the part of the Local Authority which has responsibility for looking after schools on Wirral.

Funding

3.1 Since the LA proposed to consult on the closure of Lyndale, they have implied that recent National Government funding changes have led to the financial difficulties at the school, but this is not the case. National Education Budgets are ring-fenced and have not been subject to cuts. The arrangements made by LA’s about how to spend the budgets are their own.

3.2 National Government recently changed the funding for SEN pupils from a ‘per place’ basis to a ‘place plus‘ basis involving two separate components. It has been laid down nationally that each SEN pupil is provided with £10,000 of place funding with further Top Up funding being agreed & provided locally to meet the actual needs of particular pupils. This Top Up is decided locally, and the inadequacy of the amount set for Top Up funding is the key factor affecting whether Lyndale closes or not.

 

.

3.3 Some LA’s decided to fund SEN schools on an individual basis so that they had flexibility in dealing with different types of schools and children. But Wirral decided upon a banding system which applied to all SEN schools across the Borough. This is administratively convenient, but not very flexible when dealing with children and schools with very different needs.

The Top Up funding ‘Bands’ are currently set by the LA at the following rates:-

Band 1 £ 1,000

 

Band 2 £ 6,000

 

Band 3 £ 7,000

 

Band 4 £ 8,000

 

Band 5 £16,000

 

An uncapped band

3.4 The bands are set to encompass an increasing level of need from 1 to 5.6 None of these bands have been based on an assessment of the needs for any of the pupils involved. The ‘uncapped’ band, is applicable to schools which are independent, non-maintained or Out of Borough. Fees payable to these schools by the LA can reach up to £45,000 per pupil per year (See evidence in Appendix 1). Lots of parents at Lyndale are unhappy with the alternative arrangements suggested by the LA, should Lyndale close. Parents seeking to have their children educated Out of Borough may increase as a result of the closure.

3.5 The place funding & Top Up banding levels set mean that the total funding per Band 5 child amounts to £26,000 per year, but many local authorities pay far in excess of this for pupils at a similar level of need. Wirral LA knew that when they set the Top Up levels for Band 5 it would result in Lyndale School becoming financially compromised to the point it would have to close.7

3.6 The Governors at Lyndale responded to the 2013 Consultation regarding the new funding system,8 stating that they considered the proposed Top Up fee levels for Band 5 children to be inadequate as they did not meet the actual needs of the children. The Governors recently stated that the Band 5 Top Up fee level should be £24,000 per pupil to adequately cover the cost of facilities, equipment and extra staff to carry out resource intensive procedures (as discussed later in ‘Alternative Provision’). The cost of employing an experienced teaching assistant is just over £21,000 per year and equipment such as specialised seating for use in school can cost around £3,000 per child, and comes out of each school budget. Given that most children at Lyndale require two adults to one child, (2 to 1) care, and that the cost of 1 TA will take up almost all their £26,000 allocation, how does the LA expect that the needs of children can be met?

3.7 The key point in the whole issue regarding Lyndale is that the funding level for the children with the highest level of need, in Band 5, has been set too low to cater for those needs. Parents and other interested parties have repeatedly asked the LA for the numerical formula which shows how the funding bands have been calculated, with regards to the needs of children and young people, and have as yet not received a reply which actually answers the question.

3.8 It was noted at the Council Call-in meeting on the 27th February 2014 that none of the special needs schools on Wirral agreed with the new funding formula, because they also thought that Band 5 funding was not set high enough.9 This is not referred to in any of the LA’s public documentation about Top Up funding or Lyndale.

3.9 It should be noted that the underspend of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) on Wirral at the end of 2012 – 2013 was approx £472,00010 and at the end of March this year, was approx £950,000.11 There is also currently just over a £2 million reserve available to the DSG.12 There is enough money in the Wirral education pot to adequately fund all children with a very high level of need across all schools, including Lyndale.

Fairness

3.10 The CYPD has argued that ‘fairness’ is a key consideration when deciding on the new system of funding for SEN schools. They say that because Lyndale School has a higher average cost per pupil, it was unfair to the other SEN schools on Wirral to continue to fund it. When looking at the Special Educational Needs of children, or the school which caters for them, assessment of need is the relevant factor, ‘fairness’ is not. Needs are what they are, and they cost what they cost. Where a Special Educational Need exists, the LA has a duty to provide for it.

3.11 The CYPD have twice used a table which compares the average cost per child at the 5 CLD primary and secondary schools on Wirral, in their initial report to Cabinet13 regarding the closure of Lyndale, and in the Consultation Document itself.14 This table shows accurately that Lyndale has an average cost per child of around £33,000, which seems much higher than the other 4 CLD schools, but this table has no supporting information detailing the differing needs of the children at each school, and does not compare ‘like for like’. The other 4 CLD schools mainly cater for children at Band 3, and some at Band 4, which, of course lowers the average cost per child. This gives the unfair impression that Lyndale is not value for money.

3.12 The fact is that Lyndale caters for a much higher proportion of children requiring a very, very high level of care than any of the other 4 CLD schools on Wirral, and so the cost per pupil will obviously be greater.

3.13 It is not possible for any school to cater for very high needs children on the level of Top Up funding currently set by Wirral LA, so their solution to this is to have fewer but bigger schools which ‘cross-fund’, I.e. in practise, take funding from pupils with lesser needs to pay for the needs of those with more severe difficulties. When the CYPD talk about ‘fairness’, it is not considering this loss of funding to any children on lower bands, or the struggle all CLD schools across Wirral will have to pay for the facilities needed for very high level needs children. It also doesn’t consider how fair it is to take away specialised facilities like Lyndale from children who really need it.

3.14 It is true that very small schools like Lyndale, which currently has 23 pupils, will suffer more under this inadequate funding allocation, but the need for a smaller, quieter environment for many of the very ill children there remains, and should be financed properly.

3.15 The CYPD are arguing the needs of the many over the needs of the few, but this is like us having a system within the NHS where children needing life-saving expensive treatments, are refused it because it is ‘unfair’ to children with less health problems. This is effectively what is happening in Education on Wirral. The number of children with PMLD or very high needs on Wirral comprises a very small group (approx 10% of SEN pupils), but this is all the more reason to make sure that they aren’t marginalised, and that their rights are protected.

How Children with the Highest Level of Need in Band 5 are Distributed Across Primary Schools on Wirral

3.16 PMLD is a contentious term and there are several different definitions in use. Even within this category of children, there is great variation of need and complexity. For example, Eric Craven’s report15 (discussed below) differentiated between ‘PMLD’ children and ‘High Dependency PMLD’ children. The latter category he identified as having even greater need than those with PMLD alone. Using broad terms does not help pin down figures for children needing intensive resources.

3.17 A more useful indicator of children with very high level need together with additional medical issues, or ’High Dependency PMLD’ would be to look at the number of children assessed as falling into Band 5 of Wirral LA’s own new funding system.

3.18 According to pg 30 of Wirral Schools Forum Public Reports pack of 3rd July 2013,16 the report of the Director of the CYPD indicates that there are 40 children in Band 5 across Wirral. The CYPD’s estimated distribution across all 5 CLD schools at Spring term 2013-14 is summarised in the table below.

Table showing the estimated distribution of pupils across all 5 CLD schools on Wirral at Spring Term 2013 – 14. Figures taken from minutes to the Schools Forum 3rd July 2013

School

Total Number of Pupils

No of pupils in band 1

No of pupils in band 2

No of pupils in band 3

No of pupils in band 4

No of pupils in band 5

Meadowside (secondary)

72

0

0

58

5

9

Foxfield

(secondary)

125

0

0

110

5

10

Lyndale

(primary)

26

0

0

4

5

17

Elleray Park

(primary)

90

0

0

78

9

4

Stanley

(primary)

90

0

0

91

0

0

Lyndale School caters for 81% of these children at primary school age.

3.19 The CYPD Consultation Document asserts that Elleray Park has 44% of children with ‘PMLD’ at primary level,17 but we can see from this table that is does not have 44% of ‘Band 5 primary school children assessed as having the highest level of need‘. Different definitions of needs give different results. Lyndale has the most children with the highest level of need at primary level, not Elleray Park.

3.20 Parents were confused as to why information about the distribution of children with the highest needs, would be presented in the way it was in the Consultation Document, and can only come to the conclusion that it was to make it seem to the public as though Elleray Park is more experienced than it actually is in catering for children with the highest needs, and that Lyndale is very expensive by comparison. This would guide the reader to believe that Elleray Park is a suitable and desirable alternative to Lyndale when, as we can see from the Department’s own figures, parents of children with very high needs in Band 5 overwhelmingly prefer Lyndale.

3.21 Wirral CYPD commissioned Eric Craven – an independent consultant – to write a report investigating, ‘Pupils With Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD) at Elleray Park School and Lyndale School’. The report came out on the 24th April 2013, and is the only report so far which even attempts, if only on a very simplistic level, to look at the resources needed to care for very high needs children. It was not designed to be a comprehensive assessment of the children’s needs, but rather to,

distinguish those pupils with PMLD who have more high dependency needs from those with PMLD who have less dependency on adults,‘ and to help the LA, ‘establish how the needs of the range of PMLD pupils vary within and between Elleray Park and Lyndale.18

3.22 The Eric Craven report concluded that within the PMLD populations at both schools, the school with the most children with very high needs was Lyndale by quite significant margins.

3.23 This information was to be used to inform the LA in developing their new banded Top Up system, but they have never referred to it in any of their reports to the public about Top Ups or the Lyndale school.

3.24 We can see from the above table that the distribution of children in different bands is much wider at the other 4 CLD schools than at Lyndale. When a school has a much higher proportion of children with very high needs, it will of course, have a higher cost per pupil. It is unfair to compare it to schools whose children generally have lesser needs.

Band 4 Children

3.25 Some parents at Lyndale have been shocked to learn that their children have been classed as being in Band 4, meaning that the Top Up the school receives for them is only £8,000, when their children quite clearly have a very high level of need.

3.26 The LA published a detailed listing of the criteria to be used in allocating pupils into the various Top Up funding bands,19 including the criteria to be met by Band 5 pupils. We understand that the criteria for Band 5 inclusion were based on the observations detailed in Eric Cravens April 201320 report regarding High Dependency PMLD pupils, namely that such pupils comprised those that had to be fed through a gastrostomy, were unable to sit up or walk unaided, and have a continuing P Scale performance level of between 1 – 3. Eric Craven decided that these criteria were the best indicators of high level needs children, because the resources they were likely to need would take up a lot of staff time.

3.27 But many of the children classed as being Band 4 at Lyndale have other very complex medical needs which require constant monitoring. They may need suction almost constantly throughout the day so that they don’t choke on, or inhale their own saliva; or they may be able to eat, but need an adult to feed them. Feeding children with severe disabilities can take over an hour because the effort of chewing tires them out. Although many enjoy their food very much, they eat very slowly and have to have regular breaks. Feeding has to be performed expertly by staff for these children who have an impaired ability to swallow, so that there is no risk to the child of choking or aspirating food into their lungs. Aspirating food can lead to chest infections and pneumonia.

3.27a It still takes 2 staff to hoist and change a child who can sit up unaided, but who can’t move about independently. Some children have frequent epileptic seizures throughout the day, and they need to be monitored, comforted and perhaps given emergency rescue medication when this happens. All of these things mean that a high level of staffing is needed to care for these children.

3.28 Trying to get children to fit into criteria for banding purposes is inflexible and doesn’t take true account of individual children’s need or the amount of staff time and resources it takes to care for them. This is where the banding system chosen by Wirral LA to try to categorise children falls down, and the parents at Lyndale have no confidence in it.

Falling Roll

3.29 Wirral LA argue that now schools receive funding for each pupil rather than places available at a school, the fact that Lyndale isn’t full means that the overall funding at the school will be insufficient to run it. But this is a red herring because under the LA’s new funding system, even if Lyndale were full, it would still be financially compromised because the levels of funding set per child are not enough to cover the cost of their care and education. At present the children in Band 5 cost over £33,000 per child per year.21 Under the new funding system, this has been cut to £26,000 – a £7,000 drop in funding. But we can address the issue of diminishing pupil numbers anyway.

3.30 Parents feel that there have been 3 reasons for the falling roll at Lyndale over past years, and have tried to suggest solutions to the Local Authority, which are:-

1. allowing Lyndale to provide 2 – 19 provision

 

2. investigating why prospective parents either don’t know about the school or have been dissuaded from sending their child there.

 

3. the constant threat of closure for the past 8 years

3.31 Every year there have been at least one or two parents who have requested that their children stay on at Lyndale. Had they been allowed to stay, it would have increased numbers at the school. There are many families who have had to accept Wirral’s policy of transition for all, but have been very unhappy with it. (See Appendix 1 for evidence from parents). Going into the future, there are also many children still at the school, whose parents do not want them to go through transition to secondary school. There is a demand for 2 -19 provision particularly amongst parents of PMLD or very high needs children, which would fill available places at the school.

3.32 Parents at Lyndale have been very concerned over the years about their own experiences of finding out how Lyndale exists, and trying to actually get their child into the school. They have often heard about Lyndale from other parents through word of mouth, or information from health professionals, and not through information made available to them by the LA. When they have expressed a preference for the school, they have often found it difficult to have that choice accepted.

3.33 Parents at Lyndale also talk to other parents of disabled children, who tell them similar stories. Children have ended up at other schools which their parents didn’t really want them to go to. We have evidence from parents about this in Appendix 2 at the end of the document. There is a perception amongst parents that their school has been ‘talked down’ amongst certain areas of Education on Wirral, because it doesn’t fit with the ethos that all disabled children can be educated together in the same setting.

3.34 Parents feel that the LA have not done enough to address their concerns, or to fully investigate whether this has been the case. In the interests of balance the Director of the CYPD has said that all parents are issued with a school’s booklet which lists available schools, but if parents are saying that they have never had sight of the booklet, perhaps it would be useful for the CYPD to investigate whether there have been oversights regarding the sending out of this material.

3.35 Of course, if parents don’t know that Lyndale exists, or are being told that the school is not suitable for their child, then they are unlikely to send their children there.

3.36 Other evidence to support the points raised by parents, is that when parents of High Dependency PMLD children do discover Lyndale, they overwhelmingly choose it, as can be seen from the figures in the table in paragraph 3.18 above.

3.37 The constant threat of closure which has beset Lyndale for the past several years is often a factor affecting whether parents decide to choose it for their children. When parents have extremely vulnerable children who don’t respond well to change or new environments, the possibility that they may have to settle their child into a new school and then uproot them again in the near future, can be enough to influence their decision about where to send their child in the first place.

3.38 The Local Authority could easily have solved this problem by supporting Lyndale and investing in the school, so that it’s future was secured. Instead Lyndale has consistently lost out on capital investment. Parents have received information from the LA, which shows that, excluding the recurring formula capital investment of roughly £200 per pupil per year received by all schools, Lyndale has had only £39,600 spent on it over the last 15 years, whilst the other 4 CLD schools on Wirral have had between £381,000 and £658,000 spent on them, considerably more than 10 times the amount Lyndale has received. (We have calculated these figures by taking out any capital spent on new schools rebuild costs, to reflect only money spent at each school on refurbishment, repairs and improvements). See Appendix 3.

Finances of Big Schools versus Smaller Schools

3.39 The LA say that Lyndale cant survive financially because it is a small school, and so cannot cope with funding losses so easily when children move out of the school. It is true that bigger schools can cope better with shifting pupils numbers and funding because they have a bigger overall pot to fall back on.

3.40 The LA’s idea of ‘cross-funding’ also means that bigger schools can use funding originally allocated to children with lesser needs to make up for the shortfall in the funds made available for higher needs children. But parents at Lyndale are confused as to why the banding system doesn’t just do this job in the first instance. Why complicate individual school finances with cross-funding, when pupils could just have had a properly assessed amount provided for them in the first place?

3.41 We can also come back once again to the point that, if children with the highest need were allocated the correct funding levels linked to those needs, then Lyndale would be financially sound. In addition, advantages of small schools should not just be assessed in financial terms. This is discussed further on.

Private Finance Initiatives (PFI)

3.42 It has been a policy of many Local Authorities in recent years to ’outsource’ services to private companies. They agreed to often unaffordable contracts to pay the company to provide buildings and services that were, in the past, provided for within the Council itself.

3.43 In 2001 a Private Finance Initiative agreement was entered in to by Wirral Council and Wirral Schools Services Limited for the rebuild/refurbishment of one primary and eight secondary mainstream schools on Wirral. This currently costs £11 million per year to repay, and the repayments will continue until 2031. £8.5m of this £11m is repaid by National Government and the schools involved, but the remainder of £2.5m has, up until now, been covered by money from Wirral Council outside of the School’s Budget. Further details of these arrangements can be found in Item 8 of the Wirral School’s Forum meeting of April 30th 2014 on Wirral Council’s website.

3.44 But Point 4 of Agenda Item 8 of the same meeting says that, ’In 2014 – 15 the Council reduced it’s contribution to Schools PFI costs by £600,000. This will be covered by a one off reserve created from a central schools budget underspend in 2013 – 14.

In 2015 – 16 the Council will reduce it’s contribution to costs by £2.3m. This change will require permanent savings to be identified with the overall Schools Budget.’ 22

3.45 So in other words Wirral Council have earmarked £600,000 to pay a private company for PFI contracts, and there will be a permanent self-imposed cut to the School’s Budget of over £2m per year going into the future.

3.46 As we have mentioned above, there are reserves and underspends within the LA’s School’s Budget. There has been £1.4 million made in savings across the whole SEN part of the School’s Budget. Some overspending in different parts of the School’s Budget and other spending has reduced this £1.4 million, but out of what is left, officers are proposing that a reserve of £600,000 will be set aside in the 2014 – 15 budget to pay for PFI repayments.

3.47 Parents have been confused and frustrated to know why Lyndale has to close, when there seemed to be enough money in the budget to easily pay for it’s running costs. We have only just discovered the reasons why that money may no longer exist, because throughout this whole consultation, Wirral LA have never mentioned unaffordable PFI contracts in any of their public reports about SEN funding or the Lyndale issue.

3.48 Some of the most vulnerable children on Wirral are about to lose their essential services, provided by Lyndale School. Wirral LA have repeatedly said that should Lyndale close, they will not benefit financially, but that any money saved will be reallocated across other schools, but now we wonder whether this will be the case, or if instead, this money will be used to pay LA debts to a private company.

Unanswered Questions Related to Funding

3.49 Parents have asked many questions about finance at meetings, and provided a list of questions and concerns for the Local Authority on 16th March 2014. These are listed below and have not yet been answered.

Funding

How was the funding level for Band 5 calculated? Was it based on the needs of the children? Can we have the formula?

For Band 4 and 5 top up, please clarify the following:-

  1. How many teachers per child have been allocated?

  2. How many teaching assistants per child have been allocated?

  3. Cross-funding – The funding cuts brought about by pupil led funding represent a loss of £7000 per child. How exactly do you propose the saving to be met per child?

  4. If the children move schools, they will still be underfunded. Please confirm that the deficit will be met by cross-funding from other pupils with lesser needs. This has been suggested by the CYPD on a number of occasions.

These questions need to be answered accurately and in full so that parents can contribute to the SEN Improvement Test from an informed position.

The Lyndale Financial Situation

4.1 Historically, the previous funding formula arrangements in operation for SEN pupils did not provide adequate funding to fully address the actual needs of the High Dependency PMLD pupils (pupils that are now allocated to Band 5 Top Up funding under the new arrangements).

4.2 As the vast majority of these high needs pupils have been educated at Lyndale, parents understand that the Lyndale Governors attempted to have meaningful discussions with the LA regarding this problem for the last 9 years or so.

4.3 It is only in the last 18 months that meetings have been held between LA representatives, the Head & Governors to discuss the matter and, in the meantime, the LA have, in practise, avoided the problem of inadequate funding by allocating more places to the school than the number of pupils actually attending (as shown in the table on pg 10 of the Lyndale Consultation Document).23 For the 9 years from April 2005 to March 2014 on average, an additional 20 places have been funded at Lyndale each year, which has masked the inadequate funding allocated to each individual child.

4.4 Following the recent national changes to SEN funding, annual funding of £10,000 has been provided for each place at all SEN schools, with additional Top Up funding being agreed & made available locally by each LA based on the actual needs of the individual pupils concerned.

4.5 Unfortunately, the inadequacy of funding made available for high needs pupils has been perpetuated in the new proposed arrangements, as the LA included in it’s 2013 SEN Consultation paperwork24 the assumption that Lyndale would continue to receive £10,000 per place annually based on the previously “inflated” place numbers rather than on more realistic lower figures based on actual capacity (nb: LA included 40 places for Lyndale in their 2013 Consultation document Appendix A which at £10,000 per annum gives £400,000 of funding, rather than the more realistic actual capacity of 28 – as suggested by Eric Craven’s Report in mid 2012 – which would provide funding of only £280,000. This is an overstatement of £120,000).

4.6 The levels of Top Up funding proposed by the LA in 2013 took into account the levels of place funding expected (including the £120,000 overstatement relating to places at Lyndale) and, as the majority of the high needs pupils affected are at Lyndale, has directly contributed to the Lyndale deficit forecast for 2015/16.

4.7 (ie: the LA incorrectly held out in their 2013 Consultation figure work that Lyndale would receive £400,000 of “national” place funding in future years. In reality it can only receive, at the very best, £280,000. Unfortunately, they based the levels of Top Up funding required on this incorrect assumption, which directly lead to the perpetuated inadequacy of funding provided for Band 5 pupils.)

The 8 Options

5.1 Eight options for the future of the children at Lyndale, were included in the Director of CYPD’s initial report seeking to consult on the closure of Lyndale presented to Cabinet on 16th Jan 2014.25 One of these was to close Lyndale and split the children up to send them to two other primary schools – Elleray Park and Stanley School. This is the favoured option of Wirral LA, and parents feel that this option has been pushed forward in all their documents and discussions, despite parents strong opposition to the idea. All other options can be found in this initial report on Wirral Borough Council’s website.

5.2 In her initial meeting with parents on the 19th December 2013, the Director said that all the 7 alternative options had been looked at and were not considered viable. She went on to say that this was why Wirral Council were ‘seriously minded’ to close Lyndale. This means that the 7 other options are irrelevant, and had already been dismissed, at least as far as the CYPD were concerned, and it would seem a mystery as to why they would be included in the subsequent report to Cabinet on 16th January except to give the impression that the decision to close Lyndale had not been taken before the consultation process.

5.3 The implications of this are that Wirral LA are not giving parents any choice. There is effectively only one option – to close Lyndale and send the children to schools that parents don’t feel are capable of looking after them. Parents have categorically said that they do not want to send their children to these schools.

 

5.4 The financial implications of Lyndale closing or staying open have not been fully explored as yet. The Director of the CYPD has said that there has been no cost analysis done of closure and all the options and alternatives to it. It would have been useful for this work to have been done before any consultation to close the school began, so that all parties could work out what the possibilities are, and contribute to the SEN Improvement Test from an informed point of view.

5.5 A lot of money is perhaps about to be spent extending other schools to accommodate Lyndale children. It is important to get future plans right before this money is spent

5.6 One of the other options favoured by parents for a long time is the option for a 2 19 facility for the children at Lyndale. There are a significant number of parents who would like this option enough to make it a viable proposition. It is discussed in more detail further on.

Alternative Provision Suggested by Wirral LA

Places and Space for Children at Alternative Provision

6.1 Local Authorities have a statutory duty to ensure that there are sufficient school places in their area with fair access to educational opportunity to promote the fulfilment of every child’s potential. (Education Act 1996) Further, the SEN Improvement Test requires that the LA should, ‘clearly state arrangements for alternative provision. A ‘hope’ or ‘intention’ to find places elsewhere is not acceptable.’ 26

6.2 The CYPD ‘Report Seeking Approval to Consult on the Closure of Lyndale School‘ presented to Cabinet before the consultation began, states, ‘Should a decision be taken to close Lyndale School then the proposal at this stage would be to expand the numbers of places at Elleray Park and Stanley Schools to provide up to 230 places’

6.3 It goes on to say that, ‘Elleray Park could accommodate up to 110 pupils, through the building work already being planned…..Stanley School could accommodate at least 110 pupils with the possibility of 5 – 10 additional pupils, if a trend of more children with PMLD were to emerge.’ 27 Similar statements are to be found in the Consultation Document.

6.4 These statements are very problematic because:-

1. In the table in part 2.6 of the CYPD report seeking approval to close Lyndale28 (partly reproduced below), we can see that Elleray Park has 75 places and 91 pupils, i.e. it is already significantly oversubscribed. Without further building work it cannot accommodate Lyndale pupils.

 

2. The Director of the CYPD has at many meetings informed us that the planned building work at Elleray Park is intended to meet the needs of current pupils and future intake from the general population, and not for the pupils at Lyndale. If this were not the case, then parents would have serious concerns that the building work would pre-empt the outcome of the consultation to close Lyndale.

 

3. In the CYPD report to Cabinet, we can see that Stanley School has 90 places and 89 pupils. That school is also full.

 

4. Based on the figures provided by the CYPD report to Cabinet, Stanley School and Elleray Park are capable of providing 165 places in total. Without recourse to extended space at either or both schools, to expand place numbers to 230, an increase of 65 places, seems unrealistically optimistic. Especially when we consider that the majority of children at Lyndale are wheelchair users and so require more space than would ordinarily be the case.

 

5. In saying that Stanley School could, ‘possibly’, accommodate a further 5 -10 places, the CYPD report is not clear as to whether these places do or do not exist. An extra 20 or 30 places, which is it?

Table showing place and pupil numbers at primary CLD schools. Figures taken from ‘Report Seeking Approval to Consult on the Closure of Lyndale School.’ Wirral CYPD 16th Jan 2014

School

Places

Pupil Census Jan 2013

Elleray Park

75

91

Stanley School

90

89

Lyndale

45

24

6.5 (Incidentally, the table above also shows that the CYPD have mistaken the placenumbers available at Lyndale School. The Agreed Places Allocation for Lyndale is currently28. The table implies that Lyndale is severely under-subscribed, which is not the case).

6.6 In meetings with the CYPD, Parent Governors have consistently been told that there are no plans to extend Stanley School. When Parent Governors visited the school, there was only one unoccupied classroom. We now understand that this is also in use due to recent new intake. Elleray Park had no spare accommodation.

6.7 More recently, the CYPD has altered it’s stance on the alternative provision in question. We have been told in meetings that Elleray Park School now has 90 places, and that there is a possibility that Stanley School could be extended. The Local Authority seems to change it’s mind according to circumstances about current place availability at Elleray Park and Stanley School in various different documents. But it is worth noting that from the latest figures that parents from Lyndale have been able to obtain from the schools themselves, it seems as though places are being filled up very quickly. At this point, Elleray Park has 92 pupils and 90 places, Stanley School has 97 pupils and 90 places.

6.8 We can see that even with a place number increase, both schools are still oversubscribed. This leaves no room for even small fluctuations of pupils numbers coming into the school system in the years to come.

6.9 There are 18 children at Lyndale who are wheelchair users. The chairs themselves take up an enormous amount of space, and the additional bulky equipment, like changing tables, hoists and floor space for children to stretch out and spend time out of their chairs, means that there is a limit to how many children can comfortably fit into a classroom.

6.10 The consequence of trying to squeeze children into already oversubscribed schools, is that either the children from Lyndale will not have the space required for them to be properly cared for, or class sizes of the children already at the 2 suggested alternative schools will increase as they are forced to make way for Lyndale children. Or possibly both. This has all kinds of implications for safety, decent education, and adequate care and comfort of all the children involved.

6.11 There are many reasons why the alternative provision suggested by the CYPD will not pass the SEN Improvement Test, but the most obvious would seem to be that the Local Authority have ‘hopes’ and ‘intentions’ of finding places at the alternative schools, but no actual concrete provision. They are unrealistically optimistic about the number of pupils they can fit into the already oversubscribed schools. This will lead to overcrowding, which will not meet the demand of the Test that,

LA’s …will need to demonstrate to parents, the local community and decision makers how the proposed alternative arrangements are likely to lead to improvements in the standard, quality and/or range of educational provision for children with special educational needs….Proposals which do not credibly meet these requirements should not be approved and decision makers should take proper account of parental or independent representations which question the LA’s own assessment in this regard.’

(SEN Improvement Test, Government guidance (DSCF 2007) on planning and developing special educational provision)

Future Need for Places at SEN Schools on Wirral

6.12 The CYPD Consultation Document says, ‘The numbers of children with CLD have been similar over the last five years, and there is not expected to be significant change over the medium term.29 But in the minutes to the Wirral Council Call-in meeting, the Senior Manager of School Funding and Resources gave evidence. He is noted as saying that there was a need to, ‘Recognise the needs of a growing number of pupils with social communication needs with relatively stronger funding than has been the case to date’30

6.13 Does the Local Authority believe there will there be an increase in overall numbers of children with CLD or not?

6.14 The Consultation Document goes on to say, ‘Given the projected change in the overall Wirral population there is likely to be only a small variation in the number of PMLD pupils.’ Health professionals and local charities involved in the care of PMLD children on Wirral disagree. They say that they are seeing increasing numbers of children with significant disabilities surviving from birth through infancy and into adulthood because of improvements in technology and medical advances.

6.15 This is backed up by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology in December 2013, which says, ‘Coupled with estimates that the number of pupils in England with profound and multiple learning difficulties increased by 35% in the past decade, it seems that those with CLDD [complex learning difficulties and disabilities] may represent a substantial, growing number of those with SEN.’ and it goes on to say, ‘more pupils are being identified with profound and multiple learning difficulties and the number of pupils identified with speech and language difficulties and autism has increased by 68% and 76% respectively (2005-2011).’

 

Parliamentary briefing Post Note 450 December 2013 31

6.16 This would indicate a need for Wirral LA to plan for more CLD places rather than reducing capacity and range of services.

6.17 Lyndale School is expected to take 3 new early years pupils in September 2014, and is aware of at least another 7 children who are waiting to start school in the next year or two, whose very high needs would best be catered for at Lyndale. Given that the other 2 primary schools are oversubscribed, places at Lyndale are needed to accommodate these children in the very near future.

Is the LA Considering Reducing the Number of Children With SEN Statements on Wirral? The ‘Home to School Special Educational Needs and/or Disability Transport Demand Management Review’ and SEN Place Numbers

6.18 At the end of 2013, Wirral LA received the results of a consultation carried out by Impower at a cost of £107,000. The report brought out by Impower is the ‘Home to School Special Educational Needs and/or Disability Transport Demand Management Review.’ This report repeatedly advises Wirral LA that they could save money by having, ‘lower statementing rates.‘ In their Executive Summary Impower says, ‘To make a real step change the council should take a bolder approach to reducing the number of statemented children, using the Single Education Health and Care Plan as an opportunity’ 32

6.19 Local Authorities cannot legally just decide to statement less children because of financial considerations within their budgets.

6.20 There are implications for Lyndale around this idea though. If Wirral were to pursue it, then more places would become available at Elleray Park and Stanley School through a reduction in intake from the general population of children at the lower needs end of the spectrum – thus creating room for children from Lyndale, and allowing the LA to go ahead with closure. The implications for all children on Wirral with a more moderate level of need is worrying.

Staffing and Medical Care, Facilities and Environment

6.21 Aside from classroom space, parents have many concerns about the current facilities, environment and ability of staff to cope with the complex needs of Lyndale children at the proposed alternative provision.

Staffing and Medical Care

6.22 Children from Lyndale need continuity and stability, not least in the people who look after them. It can take a long time for children to get to know and trust new people, and it is crucial that staff have expertise in their knowledge of each individual child, so that they can notice often subtle changes which indicate pain, discomfort or illness. The Consultation Document implies that there will be ‘redeployment’ 33 of staff from Lyndale to any new setting the children find themselves in. But there have been no guarantees that any staff will move with the children.

6.23 Of the 23 children at Lyndale, there are:-

 

  • 18 children who use wheelchairs, and who cannot move independently

  • 15 children with epilepsy, 4 of which require emergency rescue medication

  • 6 children dependent on oxygen

  • 7 children depending on an adult to provide suction regularly throughout the day

  • 3 children who are dependent on adults providing resuscitation with a ‘bag and mask’ should they stop breathing

  • 1 child on a life-support ventilator

  • 16 children requiring time-consuming gastrostomy feeding

  • 9 children who cannot sit up unaided.

  • many children who have complex medicine regimes, requiring up to 30 administrations of different medicines a day

  • many children who require a over an hour to feed orally

  • almost all children with life-limiting conditions

6.24 All but two (medication and ventilation) of these resource intensive needs are carried out by teaching staff at Lyndale. They are not provided for by care or health services. The level of staffing needed to provide this care comes out of the school budget, not from health or care funding streams.

6.25 On meeting the Head Teacher of Elleray Park, parents were alarmed that she was under the impression that many children at Lyndale have their cares attended to by health or care professionals. She was unaware that she would have to find the funding necessary from the school budget to pay for staff to see to the children’s needs. The Head Teacher of Stanley School expressed a similar misunderstanding at a recent public consultation meeting.

6.26 All staff at Lyndale are trained in ‘manual handling’ (a technique used for moving and hoisting children), and all are trained in the delivery of oxygen. ¾ of staff are trained to administer suction, and most are trained to assist in bag and mask resuscitation. All are experienced in dealing with epilepsy, and have the training necessary to know when to call for nursing assistance. Most staff are trained to administer gastrostomy feeds. All of this training is updated annually, or more often if a child’s needs change. The condition of the children at Lyndale can change at any time, as their disabilities and illnesses fluctuate, and the nurses at Lyndale liase with external consultants, paediatricians and specialist nurses, on a continuous basis, so that the school can adapt care practices to match the needs of the children.

6.27 There is a close working relationship between external health services and Lyndale. The school piloted a very successful scheme to hold clinics in school, which had previously been conducted at hospital. This has many advantages. It means that children often don’t have to spend time away from school travelling to clinics, sometimes as far away as Manchester. It also means that multi-disciplinary clinics can be held together with medics and the professionals who work with the children every day at school, giving a much broader picture of each child, and therefore better healthcare.

6.28 Children have interventions like physiotherapy in their classrooms so that they don’t have to miss out on lessons; and speech therapy, hearing and vision support plans, are incorporated into the personalised curriculum of each child within the classroom, meaning that children develop their sensory and motor skills within a broader context of topics.

6.29 Lots of children at Lyndale need 2 to 1 help from adults. An example of this would be where one adult helps the child to assume a good position to work (eg holding a child’s head up so that they can see what they are doing), and the other adult to hold the book, ipad, paper or paintbrushes etc ‘hand over hand’ with the child. This kind of work is very resource intensive.

6.30 It is the understanding of parents that other CLD schools on Wirral use ‘changing teams’ to come round 3 times a day to change all children. Lyndale children often need changing up to 6 or 7 times a day, because of the effects of medication or digestive difficulties. It is not acceptable to leave children in soiled pads until the next changing time.

6.31 Lyndale School has 2 full-time nurses. Parents are anxious that this level of medical care is not available at alternative schools.

6.32 The Local Authority needs to be absolutely sure that the staff at alternative schools have the level of training and time needed to carry out care, are willing to do the procedures requested of them, and that head teachers are aware that they will have to fund levels of staff required to see to these needs out of their school budget, before they make any changes to SEN provision.

Environment and Facilities

6.33 Parents have great concerns that the facilities and environment at the two alternative schools can’t meet the needs of the children at Lyndale. Stanley School and Elleray Park are bigger, noisier and more bustling schools than Lyndale, which is quiet and calm by comparison. A good proportion of the children at Lyndale have life-threatening medical conditions such as epilepsy which are triggered by noise and bustle. They need an environment which accommodates this.

6.34 Bigger schools also mean more pupils and therefore a greater risk of cross-infection. High dependency children often have compromised immunity, meaning they are less able to avoid infection in the first place, and have a harder time fighting off even common infections like colds. Picking up a cold virus for high dependency children, can cause weeks of illness and hospitalisation.

6.35 Stanley School, in particular, has been designed as a ‘low arousal’ space – a specific type of design which keeps sensory stimulation to a minimum. This is ideal for children with ASD, but children at Lyndale need the opposite – a brightly coloured, vibrant environment which promotes sensory stimulation.

6.36 Elleray Park is an older building, which has been added to several times over the years. This gives the building a disjointed feel, where one room leads into another, and short corridors connect lots of different rooms. Parents feel that the building is impractical for the accommodation of an influx of children from Lyndale needing lots of space for wheelchairs, hoists, and space to stretch out of their chairs.

6.37 The unsuitable outside space at both schools is of particular concern. The Lyndale children currently enjoy a safe, quiet area where they have plenty of space to learn, socialise, ride their wheelchair bikes, enjoy games in the fresh air and use their beautiful sensory garden. Children at Lyndale need sensory stimulation to help develop vision, hearing and tactile responses. The outdoor space at Elleray Park is cramped, hilly and unsuitable for wheelchairs, and Stanley School is co-located with a mainstream primary, which makes playtimes very noisy. There is no room to accommodate a quiet, safe outdoor space at either school, or to develop a sensory space which the children need as part of their therapy and learning.

6.38 Communal lunchtimes, school plays and assemblies are an integral part of the children’s lives at Lyndale. These activities are limited at the alternative schools because of the nature of the children’s disabilities who already attend the school. Stanley School’s communal activities are at a minimum, and Elleray Park lunchtimes are noisy and would therefore be stressful for Lyndale children.

6.39 Hydrotherapy is an essential therapy for Lyndale children. It provides relief for children’s muscle problems, and is one of the few activities that allow children to have free movement. At present children have hydrotherapy twice a week, sometimes more if necessary. The hydrotherapy pool at Elleray Park is small and cramped. Inadequate hoisting facilities would leave children who have temperature control difficulties, wet and cold for long periods. Both schools have a larger population than Lyndale, but still only one pool. How can each school still accommodate twice weekly hydrotherapy sessions when there is more demand amongst pupils?

6.40 Facilities at Lyndale are governed by hospital policies which state that there has to be a separate sink in each classroom for the washing of syringes and other gastrostomy equipment, and that a further separate area within the school be available for the cleaning of suction equipment to prevent cross-contamination. There has to be outside space for the secure storage of oxygen bottles in locked cages, and there has to be space enough within classrooms for oxygen concentrators. Children have to be swapped from concentrators to bottles when they are moving around, and vice versa when they are back in the classroom. The alternative schools suggested by Wirral LA would have to ensure that they have the space and facilities needed to comply with hospital policies.

6.41 Elleray Park does not have an ‘open door’ policy to parents. Lyndale does, because there is an understanding that parents can often need to check on their children or come in to assist staff with understanding care needs, especially when children have had an acute episode of illness causing their needs to change. Children at Lyndale are very changeable. Care needs can alter from day to day as disabilities progress, improve or worsen.

6.42 Elleray Park and Stanley Schools both have only one point of entry where children are dropped off by transport in the morning and picked up at the end of the day. With so many children at both schools, there is no guarantee that getting children on and off buses will be speedy and without risk to all children.

Expertise

6.43 Over time, teaching specialisms have developed at the CLD schools on Wirral, meaning that Elleray Park and Stanley School teachers and support staff have the experience to educate and care for their current pupils, but may not have the necessary knowledge and skills to deal with the educational, health and care needs of the high dependency children at Lyndale. Some Stanley School staff have strongly supported this view at one of the recent public consultation meetings.

Safety

6.44 Perhaps the main concern for parents of Lyndale children is that a child with behavioural difficulties already at the alternative schools could inadvertently injure them. This is not just a worry for Lyndale parents. At a recent public consultation meeting, parents at Stanley School also expressed this worry and didn’t want their children to be put in this position. Parents at Stanley School were also concerned that their children would not be able to cope with some of the more visible symptoms of disabilities of Lyndale children, like witnessing epileptic seizures for example. They also thought that their children couldn’t cope with being in an environment with PMLD children whose medical equipment is constantly beeping and alarming. The safety and wellbeing issue works both ways. No-one wants any children to have to deal with day to day situations that cause harm, or the symptoms of their disability to become worse.

6.45 Because Lyndale children are highly physically vulnerable, Lyndale parents asked each of the 4 other CLD schools (both primary and secondary) for their anonymised incident records over the past 2 years. This was in no way to undermine the other schools. Parents understand that in all schools, there are accidents and incidents between children, and perhaps more so in schools where behavioural difficulties are prevalent amongst pupils. But most children can walk away, defend themselves or tell a teacher if they have been hurt. Lyndale children cannot do any of these things. Coupled with the fact that most children at Lyndale have life-preserving medical equipment around them, a safe and predictable environment is crucial.

6.46 Stanley School and Foxfield provided enough information for parents to make an assessment of safety at the schools, but Elleray Park and Meadowside refused. This does not inspire great confidence. Why refuse to give what could be essential information for prospective parents so that they can assess for themselves how safe a school is?

6.47 Stanley School currently has no children with PMLD. Foxfield School has children with mixed disabilities but separates them according to need. This means that young people with PMLD are safe, but have to stay mostly in one room for the duration of their secondary school lives, something that would never be tolerated by parents of non-disabled children, and which would be very unlikely to happen in a mainstream school. Elleray Park and Meadowside mix children with all disabilities in the classroom. It is interesting that these are the schools which would not provide full and frank information about safety. Copies of the letters from these schools are available for Cabinet at their request.

6.48 In a recent public consultation meeting a member of the LA panel referred to a parent’s concerns about the risks of a child with behavioural difficulties injuring a child with PMLD (possibly fatally if they pulled out life support tubes), as ‘hypothetical’. Parents are at a loss as to how to respond to this. There only needs to be one incident where things become out of control for a child to be severely injured or possibly lose their life. How can the LA ask parents to put their child in this situation? How can the LA ask parents of children with behavioural difficulties to put them in this position? It seems that the LA have an almost incredible lack of imagination when it comes to the risks involved in their proposals. When will they recognise the danger that is glaringly and frighteningly obvious to almost everyone else?

6.49 The idea of ‘inclusion’ is a fantastic one, which enables disabled children and young people to have the same opportunities as non-disabled children, but any idea taken to extreme, and carried out in an inflexible way will cause problems. It is not a good idea to have physically and medically vulnerable children in the same vicinity as children whose disabilities mean that they have difficulty controlling their behaviours. A first duty of a Local Authority is to ensure that pupils at all of their schools are safe.

6.50 The only alternative to children with different disabilities being educated together in the same space, is to separate them into different classrooms. With very small numbers of PMLD / high dependency children at each alternative school, there is the risk that those children will have to spend the majority of their school day from the age of 2 – 11, that’s 9 years in the same classroom, so that they are kept safe. This is absolutely unacceptable, and would never happen in mainstream schools. It is an example of where the LA is treating children with disabilities unfavourably by the standards expected for non-disabled children.

Suitability

6.51 The CYPD Consultation Document says that the consultation to close Lyndale is, ‘based on the fact that there are two other schools in Wirral providing good and outstanding primary school provision for children with Complex Learning Difficulties (CLD).34 But this is only partly true and an example of where terms used to describe categories of disabled children are presented in a misleading way.

6.52 CLD is a very broad term which would encompass many children with different disabilities. PMLD children would fall within the CLD umbrella as would some children with say, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, but these are groups with vastly different needs.

6.53 Stanley School does indeed cater for CLD children, but wholly at Band 3 level. It has no experience of dealing with the highly complex needs of High Dependency PMLD children. The LA’s own figures tell us that Elleray Park School has only 4 Band 5 children at primary level. Lyndale has 17. So although it is true that there are 2 other primary schools on Wirral catering for CLD children, it is not true that they are capable of caring for large numbers of children with severe physical disability and medical needs should Lyndale close.

Popular Schools?

6.54 Part of Wirral LA’s reasoning behind the consultation to close Lyndale, was that this course of action would be in line with the Department for Education’s policy to assist popular schools to expand. By this, they mean that Elleray Park and Stanley School are popular and Lyndale is not.

6.55 This completely misses the point that the number of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders and other Complex Learning Difficulties within any population, vastly outnumbers the incidence of High Dependency PMLD. So the 2 schools on Wirral who mainly cater for Complex Learning Disabilities other than PMLD, (I.e. Ellery Park and Stanley School), will always have bigger populations. However, as we have seen previously in this document, Lyndale remains the school of choice for parents of PMLD children. Lyndale is the most popular school within it’s specialism.

6.56 We have also pointed out and addressed above, the reasons why parents feel Lyndale pupils numbers have dropped, and where the LA could have taken steps to prevent this, and that in any case Wirral LA have inflated place numbers at the school in previous years to cover funding inadequacies. Actual place numbers at Lyndale are 28, and it currently has 23 children. It is not severely under-subscribed.

Parental Choice

6.57 The option proposed by Wirral LA would close down parental choice. Places at Stanley School are fully occupied at the moment and Elleray Park is oversubscribed, and this is before a possible influx of Lyndale children. If there is no Lyndale and one or the other of the two alternative schools are at capacity, then there would effectively be only one choice of CLD primary school for all parents on Wirral.

6.58 The 2 – 19 option would expand parental choice because, there would still be 3 primary CLD schools for parents to choose from, and there would be additional flexibility for parents with children at transition age to decide whether or not their child should go on to one of the CLD secondary schools, or remain in a 2 – 19 setting.

6.59 This option is affordable to provide at Lyndale if the Top Up band 5 was reassessed based on the actual needs of the children.

 

Unanswered Questions re Alternative Provision

6.60 Parents provided a list of questions for the Local Authority on the 16th March 2014, and have not yet been answered (16th June 2014). As this list is lengthy, it is reproduced at the end of this document in Appendix 4. These questions give a feel about the very valid concerns of the parents at Lyndale. If there is no way to address these issues, the SEN Improvement Test cannot be met.

The SEN Improvement Test

SEN Improvement Test – Key Factors

When LA’s are planning changes to their existing SEN provision, and in order to meet the requirement to demonstrate likely improvements in provision, they should:

identify the details of the specific educational benefits that will flow from the proposals in terms of

a) improved access to education and associated services including the curriculum, wider school activities, facilities and equipment, with reference to the LA’s Accessibility Strategy.

b) improved access to specialist staff, both education and other professionals, including any external support and / or outreach services

c) improved access to suitable accommodation

d) improved supply of suitable places

LA’s should also:

i. obtain a written statement that offers the opportunity for all providers of existing and proposed provision to set out their views on the changing pattern of provision seeking agreement where possible

ii. clearly state arrangements for alternative provision. A ‘hope’ or ‘intention’ to find places elsewhere is not acceptable. Wherever possible, the host or alternative schools should confirm in writing that they are willing to receive pupils, and have or will have all the facilities necessary to provide an appropriate curriculum.

iii. Specify the transport arrangements that will support appropriate access to the premises by reference to the LA’s transport policy for SEN and disabled children.

iv. Specify how the proposals will be funded and the planned staffing arrangements that will be put in place.

Para 22. Planning and Developing SEN. A Guide for LA’s and other Proposers. DCSF (Dept for Children Schools and Families) 2007

7.1 The LA has yet to show or describe the alternative provision in detail to parents, in relation to all of the above criteria set in bold type.

7.2 As Wirral Council will be aware, Government guidance (DSCF 2007) on planning and developing special educational provision states that under the SEN Improvement Test:-

When proposing any reorganisation of SEN provision… LAs … will need to demonstrate to parents, the local community and decision makers how the proposed alternative arrangements are likely to lead to improvements in the standard, quality and/or range of educational provision for children with special educational needs… Proposals which do not credibly meet these requirements should not be approved and decision makers should take proper account of parental or independent representations which question the LA’s own assessment in this regard.” 35

7.3 At present there is no credible alternative provision because both of the 2 other CLD primary schools on Wirral are oversubscribed. There are other factors relevant to the issue of whether the proposals of the LA are ‘credible’ which have been addressed throughout this document.

7.4 Parents do not believe that the SEN Improvement Test can be met because the alternative provision suggested by Wirral LA is not an improvement on the current provision at Lyndale.

7.5 In addition, parents do not agree that their views are being taken proper account of.

7.6 Parents provided a list of questions and concerns for the Local Authority on 16th March 2014, including those listed below, which have not yet been sufficiently addressed

The SEN Improvement Test:-

a) Please confirm the exact procedure and process, and confirm that this will look at not only education, but also safety and general wellbeing of the children including areas such as physiotherapy, nursing, sensory experience, feeding, space and toileting

b) We have been told that the test must be passed. It is clearly a very specialised area and the LA will need the input of suitably experienced personnel. How do we know that the person who will carry out the test has the necessary qualifications and is independent? (NB We have now been told who that person will be, but we have yet to be given details of their qualifications and level of expertise).

c) Will there be agreement between ourselves and the LA as to the suitability of the person engaged to carry out the report. (NB since these questions were originally sent, a person has been appointed to carry out the assessment, but there was no involvement of parents in this appointment).

d) If and when the Test is done, it finds that the criteria for alternative provision has not been met, what are the contingency plans? Does this mean that Lyndale will stay open?

7.7 These remain areas of concern for parents, and these concerns remain because we have not yet had sufficiently clear, open and transparent answers to these questions.

Parents Preferred Option

 

2 – 19 Provision at Lyndale

8.1 Most children go through a process of transferring from primary to secondary school at the age of 11. This is known as ‘transition’. An alternative for children with the very highest needs in our community is to remain at a school which caters for them from early years, right through to 19 years of age, or a ‘2 – 19 option’. Many LA’s provide for this option, and there are 2 – 19 schools in the surrounding Boroughs of Cheshire, North Wales and Liverpool.

8.2 The 2 -19 option would solve the problem of Lyndale’s falling roll, simply because the one or two children who would remain at the school each year would gradually increase the number of pupils in the long term. Lyndale has 23 pupils at present. It has a current capacity (without the addition of more staff) for 28 children. There have been quite a few parents who have wanted their children to remain at the school over the years, and there is at least one family this year who are unhappy with the idea of transition for their child. (See Appendix 1)

8.2a If these children had been allowed to stay on at the school over the past few years, then the current roll at Lyndale would be full.

8.3 Parents at Lyndale feel that they have been ignored for many years now, when they try to tell the LA their very real fears about the process of transition. They are afraid that their children, who are often very ill, and whose lives are constantly disrupted and chaotic because of illness and hospital admissions, will have to endure a process that even many children without disabilities find difficult.

8.4 If children without disabilities are apprehensive about their new school, they can communicate this and be comforted by the ideas and words of those who love them. If they find it hard to settle in to their new school and feel overwhelmed by all the new people and surroundings, they can talk about this to teachers and parents who can work with them to find solutions. If they miss all the people they had grown close to at primary school, they can talk on the phone, or meet outside school.

8.5 Many children at Lyndale don’t have the communication levels needed to seek help, or the ability to understand words of reassurance. They rely on those who know them well to interpret and reassure. To use a phone is impossible for most, and to meet outside school is difficult when your life is taken up with appointments and hospital visits. In any case, most of the people that children at Lyndale grow close to are the teachers and staff who work with them day in and day out. Once they’ve moved from a school, it is unlikely that they will still see these people they have grown so fond of again.

8.6 Children from Lyndale are just as capable of making close bonds with people as anyone else is, and just as capable of grieving when they lose those people. However, they are not as capable of expressing how they feel, understanding what has happened, or being as resilient as others might be at dealing with change. And transition is an enormous, momentous change for the children at Lyndale.

8.7 Many parents of severely disabled children watch them go through years of illness connected to their disability. We become quite used to dealing with very high levels of emotional distress, both our own, and our children’s. We are very often thought to be over-protective, but if anything, the opposite is true. We wish for independence for our children more than anything else, and would love for them to reach all the milestones that every other child accomplishes.

8.8 But we also have to be realistic. When your child becomes so anxious and stressed by events that it causes them to become seriously ill, then the sensible and compassionate thing to do is to try to keep things as calm and stable as possible. When parents notice that their child responds to stress by going into uncontrollable seizures, or by self-harming, or being wracked with life-threatening whole body spasms, and there is nothing you can do to stop it then it’s not being over-protective to try to keep your child from that suffering. It is what any parent would do.

8.9 The cognitive levels of many of the children at Lyndale mean that secondary education is not entirely relevant for some, when compared to the disruption it may cause to their health and wellbeing. As Graham Mount puts it in his report (discussed below),

PMLD children and young people are not simply operating at a very low level of development from which they will develop, albeit slowly, along the normal developmental pathways. In addition to their profound learning difficulties, they also experience significant cognitive and neurological difficulties, which can impact on the way they process information……..Additionally, like young infants, their arousal and awareness levels may be limited and they may only be receptive to learning at brief and sporadic times. Typically many PMLD children often experience complex medical and care needs, which need to be addressed within whichever educational setting they are placed.’

8.10 Many children at Lyndale have days when they ‘can’ and days when they ‘can’t’ depending on the fluctuations of their disabilities and medical conditions. Learning is not on a straight trajectory. Many are likely to remain at a cognitive level below P scale 3, which puts them at around the same as an 18 month old child. Some children will improve with time, but many will not, and some children will deteriorate in ability if their condition is progressive.

8.11 From a purely compassionate point of view, it has to be remembered that many children at Lyndale have shortened life expectancy. Children with such difficult health problems and neurological conditions can become ill very quickly and pass away suddenly. For parents to think of their child spending what could be their last weeks or months trying desperately to adjust to a new setting, whilst missing dreadfully all that they are familiar with and not being able to communicate this is almost unbearable.

8.12 For years now, National Government legislation has been aimed at trying to provide joined up, smooth and continuous services for disabled children from 0 25 and their families. The most recent of this law has been the Children and Families Act, which moves towards personalisation of services where the disabled person and their family are treated as the experts.

8.13 This body of legislation was built on consultation with many of the leading national disability charities, based on work done asking children, young people and their families around what would help them best; but on Wirral, the spirit of this legislation seems to have been missed. When the services you rely on are no longer helpful then they just become yet another source of stress.

8.14 With each generation of children at Lyndale reaching secondary school age, there are parents who beg the Local Authority to listen to their concerns and spare their children the unnecessary upheaval of transition. Unless the Local Authority do listen, this argument is unlikely to go away, because the points made by parents are valid and come from a loving and compassionate view which aims to protect their children’s wellbeing and best interests.

8.15 Parents at Lyndale ask Wirral Council to respect these views and take them into consideration as an important part of this consultation.

Transistion to New Schools and Mental Health and Wellbeing

8.16 The upheaval of transition to another school and environment, is a serious risk to the health and well being of Lyndale children. Moving to a new environment for any of us can cause stresses, but for severely disabled people, the outcomes are far worse.

8.17 PAMIS, a charity which works with people with profound learning difficulties and their carers, says that, ‘People develop mental health problems for a variety of reasons; these can be both external factors (to do with changes in the person’s environment or the people around them) or internal (to do with changes in the person’s physical health, bodily changes, or pain)‘ They also cite ‘bereavement and loss’, ‘staff changes’, and ‘transition’ as triggers for the onset of mental health problems.36

8.18 Helping children on the Autistic spectrum to manage their emotions is quite rightly given a lot of attention. It is recognised that this is an important aspect of their wellbeing and behaviour management, but this is not so much the case for severely physically disabled children, and it is time that this was recognised.

8.19 One little girl at Lyndale suffers from dystonia, amongst other conditions. People with chronic dystonia (muscle spasms), can suddenly flip over into an acute episode of Status Dystonicus – whole body extreme muscle spasms which also affect internal muscular processes like, breathing and digestion (including swallowing and processing food). Once an episode is triggered it can last for months on end, and doesn’t allow the person suffering to sleep without heavy sedation through dangerously high levels of medication. The condition itself can cause death through things like dehydration, respiratory failure or exhaustion. It is devastating for the sufferer and their family.

8.20 On it’s website, the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation states that, ‘the area of the brain that is implicated in dystonia, called the basal ganglia, is associated with not only controlling muscle movement, but also mood and behaviours, so it is not surprising that there is some evidence that people with dystonia may be at higher risk of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety than the general population.’ 37

8.21 Professor Anthony G.Butler, who is Dystonia Epidemiologist for Action for Dystonia, Diagnosis, Education and Research presented a paper at the 5th Dystonia Symposium in 2011. The paper found that out of a study of 2400 people over 18½ years. That, ‘A very high number of people stated that their dystonia is definitely worse after any form of trauma or stress in their lives.’ 38

8.22 Great Ormond Street’s Guidelines for the treatment of Status Dystonicus state that medics should, ‘Address emotional / behavioural / psychological contributing factors…. In some of these children psychological / emotional factors can further aggravate their underlying dystonia. This should be considered and appropriate support provided.’ 39

8.23 Stress and anxiety directly affect physical disability. Dystonia may be quite rare, but epilepsy is not, and it affects many of the children at Lyndale. Epilepsy and other conditions are also similarly affected by emotional states. Rare conditions are quite common at Lyndale and some of the children don’t even have a diagnosis or name for the cause of their disabilities. But what parents do know is that feelings often become overwhelming for their children, because they have no autonomy, and have to trust in others to provide what they need; they can’t know what will happen next – a very stressful position to be in; and they can’t communicate distress in the same way as the rest of us.

8.24 ‘Diagnostic overshadowing’ 40 means that symptoms of poor mental health in severely physically disabled people are often overlooked, because changes in facial expression and body language may be subtle, and not expressed in the same way as for most of us. When these symptoms of anxiety or depression go unrecognised, they can lead directly to a worsening of physical symptoms (like increased seizures or worsening muscle spasms). Eventually disability and ill health is exacerbated, reducing quality of life and possibly leading to acute and life-threatening illness.

8.25 This argument stands as much for children going through a move en masse as it does for children facing transition to secondary school, which is why it is crucial for them to have familiar staff going with them if Lyndale does close. Wirral LA need to consider this before putting children through the upheaval of moving to a new, unfamiliar environment, possibly without the support of the staff who know them so well.

Background to the 2 – 19 option The Graham Mount Feasibility Study

8.26 In 2010 Wirral LA undertook a feasibility study into the 2 – 19 option. It was conducted by Graham Mount and his report can be read in it’s entirety amongst the minutes of the Cabinet meeting on 24th June 2010. 41

8.27 In this report, Graham Mount says that,

Educational research regarding the preferred organisational arrangements best suited to meeting the needs of pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties is not easily identified. Whilst there is much evidence based research around effective teaching methodologies, ….there is little if any regarding particular organisational arrangements.’

8.28 In other words, there is no evidence about whether PMLD children do better or worse in a primary then secondary setting, or a 2 – 19 setting. It comes down to a matter of opinion.

8.29 Many professionals who work with our children on a day to day basis, believe that there should be a 2 – 19 facility on Wirral and an option for the most medically vulnerable children to avoid transition. However they also feel that to openly voice this opinion would go against the educational establishment on Wirral.

8.30 Parents feel there is an view amongst some SEN providers on Wirral that 2 – 19 is an old-fashioned idea, and that transition for all children is desirable. Unfortunately, despite parents asking for the reasons why they believe this over many years, we have had no answer based on the evidenced benefits to children as yet.

8.31 A parent from Lyndale recently wrote to the Principal Educational Psychologist on Wirral to ask for her opinion about the impact of transition on PMLD children, how it was shown to be beneficial, and any evidence she was aware of around this issue, but has unfortunately received no reply.

8.32 When asked why they won’t consider a 2 – 19 facility on Wirral, the LA have consistently asserted that the other 4 CLD schools on Wirral did not want this. This response has its roots in the Graham Mount report.

8.33 The study he conducted initially involved 72 families who had been identified as having children with very significant needs or PMLD. The children were distributed across the 5 SEN schools as shown in the table (reproduced from the Graham Mount report) below.

School

No on role

No potentially meeting criteria [PMLD]

Percentage

Elleray park (p)

75

14

18.7

Stanley (p)

71

0

0

The Lyndale (p)

33

23

69.7

Foxfield (s)

123

8

6.5

Meadow side (s)

78

9

11.5

 

(p) = primary (s) = secondary

8.34 Approximately 22% of the families responded to the study, and 70% of these were families from Lyndale. Not surprisingly then, the majority of respondents wanted to see a 2 – 19 facility on Wirral.

8.35 Graham Mount writes that, ‘Interpretation of the parental consultation, with such a low and skewed response rate, is clearly problematic.’ But the LA chose to interpret the results nevertheless, to mean that parents at other schools did not see the need for a 2 – 19 provision, and that therefore it was a ‘high risk’ option financially.

8.36 No attempt to analyse why the response rate was low, was undertaken by the LA. But parents at Lyndale could provide some answers.

8.37 Parents of children with PMLD are often caught up in a cycle of crisis management because:-

  1. They have to deal with an unusually high amount of appointments, meetings with professionals and paperwork regarding the needs of their children. This is often overwhelming to the point that only the most pressing administration gets dealt with. Often paperwork (like responses to consultations) which deal with future services are put aside until there is ‘time to deal with it‘. That ‘time’ never arises in the life of a parent who cares for children with very high needs. It is not that they don’t care about future services, but more that at that moment it is not high enough up on the list of critical things to deal with, and suddenly they find that the consultation is over and they never had the chance to write down their opinion. Parents also often feel that even if they did write down their opinion, no-one would listen to it anyway.

  2. Finding care for children with PMLD is not like finding a childminder for parents of children with no disabilities. The carer has to be experienced and trained in the child’s individual medical needs. They have to know the child very well and it can take months for children to accept and trust a new carer. If no care is available, which is often the case, then parents simply cannot attend meetings, however much they may wish to.

  3. Children with PMLD are often ill, and more often very seriously ill. It cannot be stressed enough that everyday illnesses in children without disabilities are not experienced in the same way by children with severe disabilities. A common cold for most of us, often leads to pneumonia requiring hospitalisation in PMLD children. They are ill much more frequently and with more serious and life-threatening conditions than other people. When your child is this ill, your whole focus is on the child in that moment. Filling in lengthy forms and attending meetings rightly becomes of little importance.

  4. Carers of children with PMLD often don’t have even their most basic needs met, like sleep or time to eat properly. The love, care and dedication fuelling the efforts to look after their child often leaves them drained and exhausted. The shock of having a baby with disabilities, watching them suffer through pain and illness, undergoing distressing medical procedures and being resuscitated over and over, is terrifying. Sitting watching over your child’s cot or bed for hours on end without sleep, seeing them being repeatedly hospitalised, and facing the prospect of death on occasion after occasion leaves many parents traumatised. But there is no chance to recover before the next crisis arises. Parents are battle weary, grief-stricken and tired.

These are the reasons they sometimes can’t engage.

8.38 At a recent meeting between the parent governors of Lyndale school and the Director of Children’s services, this difficulty of parents of PMLD children to find a means of expressing their view, was discussed.

8.39 Parents have asked for the 2 – 19 option to be reconsidered as part of the consultation to close Lyndale, and so they asked that this time, the LA find a more imaginative way to access the opinions of a wider range of parents, perhaps by asking a key worker to interview each family of PMLD children at home. This is not unworkable as parents have interviews all the time with social workers and care co-ordinators, and there are a very small number of families with very severely disabled children on Wirral. This request was refused.

8.40 In addition to the difficulties described above experienced by any family looking after a child with PMLD, the low response rate to the study in 2010 can be put into the context of ‘vested interest.’

8.41 Parents at Foxfield and Meadowside whose children have already gone through transition to secondary school would have little to gain from a new 2 – 19 facility. Their children will have already gone through the upheaval of changing schools and it would be unlikely that they would choose to disrupt their children again to move to a 2 – 19 setting. Transition is in the past for them, and they would no doubt have been dealing with other issues facing their children which were relevant to them at the time.

8.42 As far as responses from parents of the other 2 primary CLD schools on Wirral at that time, Stanley and Elleray Park – Stanley school had no children with PMLD, so they weren’t invited to respond to the feasibility study in the first place, and Elleray Park parents could have happily continued to enjoy the 2 – 11 provision for their children with no adverse effects from a 2 – 19 facility. So why would they put themselves out to respond to this consultation?

8.43 The point is that the 2 – 19 issue only affected children from Lyndale, and their parents did respond positively to the 2 – 19 idea, but their views were ignored The only other schools which would have been potentially affected, to a very small degree would have been the 2 secondary schools, by the loss of the one or two pupils coming up each year from primary school.

8.44 When weighted against the need for very high needs disabled children to have continuity and stability throughout their school life, for the sake of their very fragile health, this loss to the secondary schools is not very important.

On pg 117 of the LA Public Documents Pack for the same Cabinet meeting that included the Graham Mount study the LA had several arguments against a 2 – 19 facility specifically for PMLD children. These were that:-

 

  • It would ‘fly in the face of expressed parental opinion

  • It would reduce parental choice

  • It would potentially contravene the Disability Discrimination Act’

 

8.45 The first point has already been addressed in the arguments above.

8.46 We struggle to understand the second point. Offering 2 primary schools like Stanley and Elleray Park, which allow for more able children to transfer to secondary school, along with an option for more vulnerable children to attend a 2 – 19 facility, surely only increases parental choice.

8.47 In the current situation, if Lyndale closes then parental choice is narrowed to the option of 2 CLD primary schools, which more or less, offer the same type of educational setting.

8.48 We are not sure why offering a 2- 19 facility would contravene the Disability Discrimination Act, unless the LA were referring to specialisms, but specialisms have emerged at almost all SEN schools on Wirral and elsewhere. If a High Dependency PMLD child’s parents wanted them to go to Gilbrook Special School for example, the LA would in all probability refuse, because the child could have their needs met elsewhere, and because the school could not be reasonably expected to make the adjustments necessary to meet their needs without affecting their ability to provide for the needs of the children already there.

8.49 Equality law is designed to make sure that disabled people have the same opportunity as non-disabled people. For any institution to specialise it needs to set criteria for access to that specialism. It is not against the spirit of equality law to do so. It is against the spirit of equality law to keep a child in one classroom throughout the course of their primary or secondary school life, because this would not happen to any non-disabled child.

Big Schools v’s Small Schools

9.1 The Consultation Document sets out all the negative aspects of small schools like Lyndale, and highlights all the positive aspects of bigger schools. None of the LA’s points appraise the needs of the children which the school serves. There are many more important reasons for LA’s to continue to maintain smaller schools than the purely financial ones.

9.2 So in the interests of balance, we can point out some of the opposite arguments. Small schools like Lyndale:-

  • can be adequately funded when we know that there is a £900,000 underspend in the school budget this year and there was a £472,000 underspend last year. Wirral LA can afford to fund Lyndale School, if money is used wisely, as there have been no cuts to education grants nationally.

  • have low student-teacher ratios which means more focus on each child. Teachers can take the time to work at the right pace for the student. Many studies show an improvement in quality of teaching and success of students at smaller schools over larger ones, because they can create a more personalised and intimate learning environment.

  • benefit pupils socially. It’s difficult for pupils to avoid participation in smaller classes, but it is also less intimidating. This encourages children with learning difficulties to join in and develop confidence. Pupils who participate regularly have higher self-esteem and less behaviour problems. It becomes more difficult for pupils to go unnoticed and ‘slip through the net.’

  • allow teachers to really get to know their students. Children with disabilities can often find it hard to understand and be understood. In small schools, staff can develop close bonds and relationships with pupils. They become the ‘expert’ on each individual child a highly important and much needed skill for very disabled children.

  • act like a community rather than a corporation, offering pupils a sense of belonging. This extends to families, who also often feel a close sense of connection to the school.

  • offer a greater degree of safety to pupils with certain health needs. Conditions like epilepsy can be triggered by bigger, noisy environments. Smaller schools offer a quiet, less stressful environment for these children.

9.3 Smaller schools have enormous value and we ask Wirral LA to consider this.

The Lyndale School

10.1 Ofsed said that Lyndale is a good school with outstanding features in it’s 2012 inspection. Here are some more comments from Ofsted:-

‘care and support for pupil’s well-being are outstanding’

‘Behaviour and safety are outstanding. Parents can relax knowing that their children are very safe, happy and well cared for in school.’

‘Partnerships with parents are outstanding. Parents know that if they have worries there is someone on the teaching or medical staff who will give them advice and support.’

‘staff are continually looking at ways to improve the education and well-being of the pupils….pupils love to come to school’ 42

10.2 The Lyndale School began as The Hospital School at Clatterbridge and was moved to it’s new site in Eastham in 1999. It originally took pupils with a range of disabilities, but over the years it began to specialise with PMLD or very high needs children – children who are very severely disabled and often had additional complex medical issues. Lyndale has

also rehabilitated children who have been injured in accidents, or who have had illnesses which have left them with longer-term effects, bringing them back to the point that they can re-enter mainstream school and live out their lives well and happy.

10.3 Although you would never know it on walking into the calm, quiet yet vibrant school, you are actually entering a highly specialised medical environment. Not all of the children there are ill for all of the time, but many are ill for much of the time. For lots of the children, even when they are ‘well’, life can be a struggle. They have to have daily constant interventions to make sure they survive each day. If anyone of these are missed, the children can suffer from anything ranging from unpleasant withdrawal symptoms from medication to a life-threatening episode.

10.4 But the school doesn’t feel clinical at all. It has a warm, cosy and inviting atmosphere, just the sort of place most of us would like to be if we felt unwell. Yet the vibrancy of the rooms which the staff and children work so hard to decorate, create a lovely sensory environment which stimulates the children’s sense of sight, sound, smell and touch. This extends to the spacious outside environment where there is a beautiful sensory garden, donated by Wirral Globe readers.

10.5 Lyndale staff have worked hard to introduce integrated health services. Paediatric clinics are held in school so that children don’t have to attend hospital more often than necessary, and children receive treatments like physiotherapy in the classrooms so they don’t miss out on lessons. The busy support services run smoothly under the surface, while the children get on with enjoying their day. Everything the staff do there tries to encompass the whole child. Each child is cherished, respected and valued, and it shows. The children are happy and parents know that the school is one of the very few places they can send their child knowing they are safe and well cared for. Lyndale is unique and excellent in the service it provides.

10.6 Lyndale has won an award from Epilepsy Action in the past for it’s work supporting children with the condition, and has won Arts-Mark Gold Awards, Wirral International Awards, and Healthy Schools Award. They are part of Bike It! for Wirral with their adapted wheelchair bikes, and the children raise money for charity every year in the Big Pedal, as well as holding regular fundraising ’bacon buttie’ and ’friendship’ mornings.

10.7 Lyndale is a school which the local community has taken to it’s heart, and the support it has from local business, charities, schools and individuals is a constant source of pleasure to the parents and children there. (We know who you are, and appreciate all you do.) Ex-pupils and families of children who have attended the school in the past, stay in touch because of the strong bonds forged, sometimes in adversity, and sometimes in joy. Lyndale is a community which extends beyond it’s four walls, and touches the lives of so many people. It would not be too much to say that Lyndale is much loved, and deservedly so.

Conclusion

11.1 National changes to funding, the small size of Lyndale, or it’s falling roll, are not responsible for it’s precarious financial situation.

11.2 The level of Top Up funding set by the Local Authority is responsible. The Schools Budget is more or less the same as in previous years because National Education Budgets are ring-fenced and have not been cut. If the money for the running of Lyndale was there previously, then in all logic, it should still be there now Whatever the details of the new systems of funding the LA has chosen is irrelevant. The overall sum given to Lyndale has been cut. This is why the school is not financially viable.

11.3 It is within the power of the LA to change this situation, and properly address the needs of Lyndale children, who, if Lyndale closes, will still be underfunded wherever they are educated.

11.4 Parents at Lyndale believe they have shown that the proposed alternative provision suggested by Wirral LA cannot pass the SEN Improvement Test.

11.5 Our strong opinion is that a 2 – 19 provision be made available for children with PMLD on Wirral, preferably at the site Lyndale currently occupies, or at another site parents and other stakeholders feel is suitable

11.6 Should it be that Lyndale has to close, then parents ask for full redeployment of staff at Lyndale to any new site, as a requirement.

11.7 There is no Lyndale without the staff who have cared for our children in the most dedicated way, and given support and hope to parents when they may have felt there was none. Whatever happens in the next few months, parents and children of Lyndale would like it noted that they say ‘thank you’ to these very special people from the bottom of our hearts.

Appendices

Appendix 1 – Evidence from parents regarding transition and 2 – 19 facilities

Names have been omitted for reasons of privacy, but are available to the LA on request. The family in the first piece of evidence talks about their experiences with 2 of their children, we have called them ‘S ‘ and ‘P‘.

Evidence from Family No 1

S was at Lyndale from the age of 2½ and we had a wonderful time as a whole family being part of Lyndale. We all benefited from their wonderful expertise and caring support. S received a fantastic education and we were happy for P to join S there when he was 2 1/2. This continued until S was 7 years old when the future of Lyndale was first seen as unstable and we as a group of parents, along with the governors of the school began fighting to try and extend the life of the school and ensure the future for not only our children but those who would need the school in the future. I spoke at cabinet meetings, we had meetings with the director of education, we even had a meeting with Ed Balls who was the Education minister at the time, as well as visiting our own local MP’s . At this time we were really trying to get an agreement to extend the age range of children at Lyndale. As we as parents were beginning to think of the futures and what would happen to S and P at age 11, we thought, naively that it might be sorted by the time that came!!!!! How wrong we were and now we find ourselves in the position of both S and P being educated out of authority and supporting friends of children still at Lyndale fighting again for the future of their school and the education of their children. Hard to believe that this has taken all this time and of course all the worry and anxiety that has been caused as a result.

When S was due to leave Lyndale we went to visit Foxfield and Meadowside schools as potential secondary schools for her. At this stage we went with open minds, not prepared for what we would see and what we would ultimately have to do to ensure the continuation of her education at the same standard as Lyndale.

To cut a long story short we came away from those visits believing that neither school were able to give S the secondary education she needed, for a variety of reasons which it is unnecessary to go into here.

We were disappointed but felt initially this would strengthen our argument for a 2-19 provision at Lyndale. We had various meetings with senior staff in the education dept. who at first suggested we go and look around Dorrin Park school in Chester as a possible alternative. We did visit but felt they offered nothing different to the 2 Wirral schools , in fact one of our main concerns being there was no full time nurse cover which was very worrying and totally unacceptable when S is epileptic.

More meetings with the education dept. to explain our concerns and to inform them that we would be looking around schools out of the area. After several visits we came to the conclusion that The Royal School for the Blind [in Liverpool] was the best available school for S to attend.

 

At this time the education dept. agreed with us that they could not meet S’s needs at Secondary school on Wirral and that the school for the blind could give her the best possible education, however they as an authority did not have to ensure the best education for S just the most appropriate within their budget!!!!!! This meant they would not support our request to have a place at the school for the blind as it was too expensive.

So we found ourselves formally requesting a place at the school and ended up lodging an appeal against the authority and finally going to an education tribunal to fight our case. In fact the tribunal in the end became about a place at Dorrin park school in Chester which our education dept. thought was the best place for S or a place at the school for the blind which we wanted, the tribunal was never about a place at Foxfield or Meadowside.

The tribunal process was extremely lengthy and very stressful, we were lucky to have support from the Head of the school, The National Blind Children’s Society and Vision Support in Manchester. We were thrilled to win the tribunal and the authority were ordered to name The Royal School for the Blind in S’s statement for her secondary education. During the tribunal figures were given to cost of placements at the 2 schools and these were approximately £45,000 per year for a place at the Blind school and £20,000 at Dorrin park. So we know how much it is costing the authority to educate S each year, plus transport costs and of course those figures will be considerably more now 6 years on. We made it very clear at the time that we desperately wanted S educated on Wirral and if they had agreed to extend Lyndale from 2-19 we would have kept her there and saved the education authority a lot of money. We still stand by that today although it is nearly too late for S as she only has 2 more years left in school.

We now are in the position of having our 2 PMLD children, S and P, being educated at The School for the Blind in Liverpool, P joined S there in September 2011, the education authority agreed he could go there without us having to go to tribunal, maybe they were frightened of losing again!!!! He did however have one extra year at Lyndale as we requested he stay having had major hip surgery needing careful Physiotherapy intervention afterwards which we argued needed to be with somebody who knew him well.

 

As you will see our family is using a lot of the education authority’s money each year to educate our children when they could have remained at Lyndale and we would have been delighted and the bill for education much lower.

As far as we know families of children currently at Lyndale are still facing the same difficulties and now even having to face the potential closure of their school. Can’t believe this is happening and we fully support them in their fight to keep it open and to extend its age range. The proposal to co-locate with other primary special schools on Wirral is fraught with difficulties and does not provide these vulnerable children with the education and environment they need, it is merely a cheaper option for the education authority.

Evidence from Family No 2. We have called their child ’E’

Our daughter E attends Lyndale School and was supposed to go to secondary school last year. We asked that she be allowed to stay at Lyndale because we felt that she couldn’t cope healthwise with the move to another school, and that her educational needs were best met at Lyndale. This was initially refused, and we went to see our local MP along with another family who also wanted their child to stay at Lyndale. Our daughter then

 

became very ill and missed most of what should have been her last year at Lyndale. At this point the LA agreed that she could stay on an extra year.

We are now in the same position this year, and will probably have to go to Tribunal to argue our daughter’s case. We know that this will be very stressful, but feel that we have no choice if we are to protect her best interests.

E copes well with her disabilities, but she has episodes where she becomes very ill for long periods of time, sometimes months on end, and where she suffers a lot. We feel that to put her through transition to another school is unnecessary and cruel, because she doesn’t understand things in the same way that we do. E’s health needs are our most important consideration, and we think that no other school but Lyndale can look after her so well. The education she receives at Lyndale is appropriate for her level of understanding, and we don’t know why the Education Department insist on making children like E move schools when it will cause them so much distress.

To think of E struggling to adjust to a new school, through all her ups and downs, makes us so upset, and we are afraid of the impact transition will have on her health.

Appendix 2 – Evidence from parents regarding admission to Lyndale

Again, names have been omitted for reasons of privacy and can be provided to the LA on request.

Evidence from Family No1. We have called their child ‘D’

My daughter D attends The Lyndale School. D was lucky enough to benefit from fortnightly visits from Portage prior to early years school age. I was informed by my portage worker, that a child could attend a special school from the age of three years old.

When the time came for D to be statemented I was never given a booklet regarding my choices of schools. I understood that the process would mean all staff involved in D’s care would compile a report along with an Educational Pyscologist and a section for parents to complete detailing her capabilities, likes dislikes etc. This would go to a panel who would decide which school would best suit the needs of my daughter.

Only through meeting other parents did I find out about the Lyndale and Stanley schools as only Elleray Park was mentioned.

I visited Lyndale and immediately knew that this was the school for my daughter. I approached our Portage worker and mentioned the school and how I wanted D to attend there. Although having never previously mentioned the school as an option she fully supported my thoughts and rationale.

Evidence from Family No2. We have called their child ’R’

My sons name is R and he was born on [date omitted] at Arrowpark hospital. I had a normal birth and everything was fine, until, at two weeks old, R caught a viral infection, Bronchitis c, he was rushed to hospital as he was very poorly. After recovering R was then referred to AHCH were he was treated for Laryngomalacia and stridor with Aryepiglottoplasty. He has continued issues with reflux and developmental delay, but still has not had a diagnosis. R is unable to sit up, walk or talk and needs 24hr care.

When choosing a special school for R, I went to visit Lyndale, Elleray and Stanley, all the schools were really good, but I really liked Lyndale because R would have 1-1 care and in everyway the school suited all his needs.

I requested in my statement for R to attend Lyndale and I assumed my choice would be taken in to consideration.

Sometime later I received a letter back informing me I could only choose between Stanley and Elleray. Lyndale for some reason had not been made an option for my son. I was not aware at the time that I could appeal this, so I chose Elleray.

I have now contacted the Education board to request my sons able to change schools and start at Lyndale as soon as possible.

Appendix 3 – Wirral LA Information re. Capital Spending Across the 5 Wirral CLD Schools

Appendix 4 – Unanswered questions relating to ‘Alternative Provision’

Alternative options to Lyndale:-

a) How will the other options mentioned in the initial document provided by the Local Authority be assessed ?

 

b) Will the 2-19 or in fact 2-23 be revisited. The last time this was looked at the reasoning behind the decision not to go ahead was flawed. The current trend in other boroughs is to make schools 2-19 and in fact in Cheshire its 2-23. Will the local authority look in detail at this proposal ?

 

c) At the call in it was mentioned a number of times that the consultation would look at options that had not yet been thought of, how will this be done? Will the local authority bring in expert help in looking at these options

The closure of the Lyndale School and moving the children to Stanley and Elleray Park schools

 

If The Lyndale School should close:-

 

a) How will the children be allocated to each school?

 

b) Will allocation be on geography?

 

c) Will allocation be on ability?

 

d) Will allocation be on age?

 

e) If the decision is based on choice, what if there is not an equal division? What if all parents want their children to go to the same school?

 

f) What if parents decide that neither school is suitable? Will the LA fund out of borough schooling?

 

g) Will each of the parents be able visit the respective schools once the new provisions are in place in order to assess them ?

h) At the time our children were allocated to The Lyndale School, neither Elleray nor Stanley School was considered suitable. What has changed?

 

i) Are each of these schools going to cater for children aged 2-11 in just 2 groups or is the plan to integrate our children with the existing children in both Stanley and Elleray? It would clearly be very difficult to cater for such a large age range with, for example, only two small classes of children, it would mean that a child would potentially be in the same class and therefore the same class room for up to nine years.

Stanley School Specific Questions:-

Stanley School currently has 97 – 100 pupils and we are told that there will be 110 there within a very short space of time. It also has a waiting list. The school capacity is listed as 90.

a) Where are the spaces for our children?

 

b) We have been told the capacity will be increased to 110. How will this be achieved?

 

c) What if Stanley is already at 110 pupils when the consultation is in progress?

 

d) If spaces are created somehow for our children, What happens to the children on the waiting list for Stanley School?

 

e) The numbers of ASD and children with behavioural difficulties is increasing. How will you cope with this if Stanley School is full and / or over capacity? Where will the additional capacity be for any future increase in either ASD / behavioural difficulty or PMLD children?

 

f) On our Governors visit to Stanley School they had one spare classroom, however, we were told that once the school is at capacity, this would be full? Where exactly are our children’s classrooms going to be and how many classes will they have? For example, for 10 children, we would need at least 2 classrooms. There are no spare classrooms in this school. We were told categorically that there were no plans to expand Stanley School, however at the ‘call-in’ meeting the Director of CYPD mentioned an extension, please clarify.

 

g) During our meeting with the headmaster of Stanley and the Director of CYPD, the Head informed us that he would have to stop their intake of children now to accommodate our children in July 2015. The Director of CYPD said at the call-in that this is not the case. Please clarify how this space is going to be freed up at this school?

 

h) Stanley School has a low arousal environment. The headmaster acknowledged that this environment would not be suitable for our children. How is Stanley School going to create a stimulating, vibrant, colourful environment in and out of the classroom without impacting on existing children?

 

i) How do Stanley School propose to get our children into school in the morning, and out at the end of the day? Stanley has one door and one arrival point at present, for transport buses to use. This will be busy and noisy, and is likely to be a lengthy process. How can our children be offloaded quickly, quietly and safely whilst not coming into contact with the children who could possibly stress or injure them.

j) How do Stanley School propose to get our children safely through the school during the day? Will the school ensure enough staff to have one pushing the wheelchair and one walking with the child to ensure that they are safe?

k) Stanley School does not have communal lunch or assemblies. Our children do, on a regular basis, which they enjoy and which is an essential part of their development as it allows them a sensory and stimulating experience whilst mixing with the other children. How will this be replicated at Stanley?

 

l) Outside space at Stanley School is currently one open space sectioned off by mesh fencing. There is no quiet area, no sensory area and nowhere suitable for the wheelchair bikes our children enjoy riding. There is no room to create a space like this. It is going to be an extremely noisy, unsafe and stressful environment. Our children currently spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in the warmer weather. How is this going to be replicated?

 

m) Stanley does not have and has never had, as far as we are aware, any severely physically disabled and highly vulnerable children like ours. Are they proposing that our staff move with our children or that they take on new staff? (NB Since the writing of these questions, the Consultation Document talks in a vague way about redeployment of staff, which we understand doesn’t happen as a matter of course in Wirral Council any more. We have been given no guarantees that staff will go with the children).

n) We as parents believe that Stanley School was built with our children in mind and that the LA were always minded to close our school. If that was not the case, then why was Stanley designed with expensive hoisting equipment specifically built in when they did not and do not now have any children needing this equipment?

o) If it is a case of the local authority complying with equality regulations then please confirm why the Lyndale school has not been provided with such equipment and in fact has outdated and insufficient hoisting for their children .

 

p) Nurses – Please confirm how many full time nursing staff will be at each school for the children? Stanley currently have no full time nursing care . This is clearly insufficient, if our children were to join the school due to their high medical needs. They currently have two nurses.

 

q) Please confirm that the children will have a warm and cosy nursing room with a suitable nursing bed if they need nursing care and are unwell during the day. The current room does not have a suitable bed and is cold and unwelcoming.

Elleray School Specific Questions

Elleray currently has 92 pupils, their capacity (as per the same document referred to above) is 75 .(NB since the writing of these questions, the LA now says that Elleray Park has 90 places, but this still means it is oversubscribed and doesn’t have the space to accommodate Lyndale children, unless of course the planned building work was for Lyndale children all along.)

a) Why aren’t suitable children currently attending Stanley and Elleray being referred to The Lyndale School? We are aware of suitable children who have been told that they must go to Elleray

 

b) Elleray is currently oversubscribed by 17 children. We have been told that the extension is for the current population of children. Can you confirm that this is the case? If this is the case, where will the space be for our children?

 

  1. During a meeting with the head teacher and Julia Hassall we were told that if our children go to Elleray that the planned Library would not go ahead and would in fact be changed to provide new classrooms for our children. Surely this would be detrimental to the existing children? Are the Elleray parents aware of this fact?

 

d) Elleray currently has no suitable outdoor space, no quiet area, and no outdoor sensory area. The outside area is very cramped and will be taken up further by the proposed extension,. Where could this required outside space be created without taking space from the current children? How would the school ensure that this would be a quiet and safe area?

 

e) How do they propose to get our children into school in the morning safely? Elleray has one door and one arrival point at present. This would be busy, noisy and time consuming with all children arriving on buses at the same time. Currently, the children’s Escorts are not allowed into the School to do the handover of the children to the classroom? How can they ensure a speedy, safe handover? Our Escorts play an extremely important part of our child’s transport and they convey a lot of important information to the staff. How can they ensure this would continue? How would the school ensure a safe journey into and through the school at the beginning and end of the day and in fact throughout the day?

 

f) Whilst our parent governors were there a child was seen running unrestrained up the corridor being chased by a member of staff, this would obviously be a potential danger to one of our children. How would the school ensure that our children were protected and safe at all times and still had access to the school as a whole?

g) Elleray does not have an open door policy to parents, this is vital. Please confirm that this will be changed as this is vital for parent’s confidence.

 

h) Hydrotherapy – The pool is very small and is not suitable for our children. There is no hoist from the changing area straight into the pool. The current method of transfer would not be suitable for our children who all have temperature regulation issues. The transfer takes far too long. Also, confirm how many hydrotherapy sessions our children will get per week? They currently get 2 per week. We were told that the children have class swims, how can the school manage this when each of our children need two staff in the water with them and some of our children have to stay in class due to medical issues, how will the school cater for the number of staff needed?

 

i) Nurses – Please confirm how many full time nursing staff will be at each school for the children? Stanley currently have no nursing care and Elleray currently have 1. This is clearly insufficient, if our children were to join the school due to their high medical needs. They currently have two nurses.

 

j) Elleray Park currently have a communal lunch and assembly, this is a very noisy and potentially stressful and dangerous experience for our children. How will our children be integrated safely into this or will they have to be confined to their classroom?

 

k) How will the school ensure that they have sufficient staff to look after our children ?

 

l) Will the staff be taken from Lyndale school

 

m) How many teachers and TA’s will be allocated per each child?

 

n) How will the school ensure that they have enough staff for eg toileting – when needed, dependent on the child’s needs, each child can require changing between 3 and 8 times a day, 2 staff are required for each change and the appropriate number of staff are required to remain in the classroom with the remaining children. The head teacher at Elleray seemed to be under the impression that the children had staff from continuing care to look after these needs, the majority do not.

o) How will the school ensure that there are staff available and trained to feed each child

and administer water and vent gastrostomy tubes.

 

p) How will the school fund the additional equipment needed for our children ie hoisting

 

q) Will the school ensure that they have a nurses room where a child can go if they are needing nursing assistance and “time out” due to feeling unwell during the day? Lyndale currently have this provision and Elleray do not.

 

We appreciate that these questions are numerous and detailed but this information should be readily available as part of the consultation and we therefore expect a detailed answer to the same.

References

1. Mansell. J. ‘Raising Our Sights: Services for adults with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities’ 2010

2. Wirral Borough Council ‘Corporate Plan 2013 – 2016’ http://www.wirral.gov.uk/my-services/council-and-democracy/council-performance/corporate-plan

3. Wirral Council Children and Young Peoples Department ‘Consultation Document. The Lyndale School’ http://www.wirral.gov.uk/downloads/6740

4. Wirral Schools Forum meeting of 30thApril 2014 Public Reports Pack. Agenda Items 4, 8 and 13 http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/g4849/Public%20reports%20pack%2030th-Apr-2014%2018.00%20Wirral%20Schools%20Forum.pdf?T=10

5. Children and Young People’s Department. ‘Report Seeking Approval to Consult on the Closure of Lyndale School’ Jan 16th 2014

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50016156/Lyndale%20School%20Report.pdf

6. Wirral Schools Forum meeting 13th Nov 2013. Public Reports Pack. Agenda Item 12 Appendix C, pg 75 Table showing ‘Banding Model for Top ups for Specialist SEN and Alternative Provision ’

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/g4664/Public%20reports%20pack%2013th-Nov-2013%2018.00%20Wirral%20Schools%20Forum.pdf?T=10

7. Wirral Schools Forum meeting 13th November 2013. Public Reports Pack. Agenda Item 12, pg 49, Qu 3.

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/g4664/Public%20reports%20pack%2013th-Nov-2013%2018.00%20Wirral%20Schools%20Forum.pdf?T=10

8. Wirral Schools Forum meeting 13th Nov 2013 Public Reports Pack. Agenda Item 12

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/g4664/Public%20reports%20pack%2013th-Nov-2013%2018.00%20Wirral%20Schools%20Forum.pdf?T=10

9. Minutes to the Policy and Performance Co-ordinating Committee Call-in meeting. ’Evidence from Call-in witness – Ian Harrison. Lyndale School Governor

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=680&MId=4778&Ver=4

10. Wirral Schools Forum meeting 22 Jan 2014. Public Documents Pack. Agenda Item 4 ‘Schools Budget 2014 -15’ pg 18 point 2.6.5

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/g4665/Public%20reports%20pack%2022nd-Jan-2014%2018.00%20Wirral%20Schools%20Forum.pdf?T=10

11. Wirral Schools Forum meeting 30 April 2014. Public Documents Pack. Agenda Item 1. Pg 4 point 8

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/g4849/Public%20reports%20pack%2030th-Apr-2014%2018.00%20Wirral%20Schools%20Forum.pdf?T=10

12. Wirral Schools Forum meeting 22 Jan 2014. Public Documents Pack. Agenda Item 4 ‘Schools Budget 2014/15’ pg 18 point 2.6.5

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/g4665/Public%20reports%20pack%2022nd-Jan-2014%2018.00%20Wirral%20Schools%20Forum.pdf?T=10

13 Children and Young People’s Department. ‘Report Seeking Approval to Consult on the Closure of Lyndale School’ Jan 16th 2014

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50016156/Lyndale%20School%20Report.pdf

14. Wirral Council Children and Young Peoples Department ‘Consultation Document. The Lyndale School’ http://www.wirral.gov.uk/downloads/6740

15. Craven. E. ‘Pupils with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD) at Elleray Park School and Lyndale School – A Report for Wirral Children and Young People’s Department’ 24th April 2013. Available on request

16. Wirral Schools Forum meeting July 3rd 2013 Agenda Reports Pack pg 30 . Table named ‘Special Schools Top Ups (using termly numbers)

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=148&MId=4628&Ver=4

17. Wirral Council Children and Young Peoples Department ‘Consultation Document. The Lyndale School’ http://www.wirral.gov.uk/downloads/6740

18. Craven. E. ‘Pupils with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD) at Elleray Park School and Lyndale School – A Report for Wirral Children and Young People’s Department’ 24th April 2013. Available on request

19. Wirral Schools Forum meeting 3rd July 2013 Agenda Reports Pack. Agenda Item 5. Appendix C. pg 33 and 34. Table named ‘Developing the Bands for Specialist SEN Provision’

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=148&MId=4628&Ver=4

20. Craven. E. ‘Pupils with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD) at Elleray Park School and Lyndale School – A Report for Wirral Children and Young People’s Department’ 24th April 2013. Available on request

21 Wirral Council Children and Young Peoples Department ‘Consultation Document. The Lyndale School’ Table shown on pg 10 http://www.wirral.gov.uk/downloads/6740

22. Wirral Schools Forum meeting of 30thApril 2014 Public Reports Pack. Agenda Items 4, 8 and 13 http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/g4849/Public%20reports%20pack%2030th-Apr-2014%2018.00%20Wirral%20Schools%20Forum.pdf?T=10

23. Wirral Council Children and Young Peoples Department ‘Consultation Document. The Lyndale School’ http://www.wirral.gov.uk/downloads/6740

24. Wirral Schools Forum meeting of 3rd July. Agenda Reports Pack. Agenda Item 5.

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=148&MId=4628&Ver=4

25. Children and Young People’s Department. ‘Report Seeking Approval to Consult on the Closure of Lyndale School’ Jan 16th 2014

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50016156/Lyndale%20School%20Report.pdf

26. Para. 22 Planning and Developing SEN. A Guide for LA’s and other Proposers. DCSF (Dept for Children Schools and Families 2007)

27. Children and Young People’s Department. ‘Report Seeking Approval to Consult on the Closure of Lyndale School’ Jan 16th 2014 . Table shown in part 2.6

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50016156/Lyndale%20School%20Report.pdf

28. Children and Young People’s Department. ‘Report Seeking Approval to Consult on the Closure of Lyndale School’ Jan 16th 2014 . Table shown in part 2.6

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50016156/Lyndale%20School%20Report.pdf

29. Wirral Council Children and Young Peoples Department ‘Consultation Document. The Lyndale School’ http://www.wirral.gov.uk/downloads/6740

30. Minutes to the Policy and Performance Co-ordinating Committee ’Call-in’ meeting. ’Evidence from Call-in witness – Andrew Roberts – Senior Manager of School Funding and Resources

 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=680&MId=4778&Ver=4

31. Parliamentary briefing Post Note 450. Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. December 2013

 

http://www.parliament.uk/Templates/BriefingPapers/Pages/BPPdfDownload.aspx?bp-id=post-pn-450

32. Impower, ‘Home to School Special Educational Needs and/or Disability Transport Demand Management Review’ http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50017622/Report%202%20Appendix%201.pdf

33. Wirral Council Children and Young Peoples Department ‘Consultation Document. The Lyndale School’ http://www.wirral.gov.uk/downloads/6740

34. Wirral Council Children and Young Peoples Department ‘Consultation Document. The Lyndale School’ http://www.wirral.gov.uk/downloads/6740

35. Para. 22 Planning and Developing SEN. A Guide for LA’s and other Proposers. DCSF (Dept for Children Schools and Families 2007)

36. PAMIS. ‘Responding to the Mental and Emotional Needs of People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities http://www.pamis.org.uk/cms/files/leaflets/emotional_well-being.pdf

37. Dystonia Medical research Foundation. Emotional and Mental Health

 

http://www.dystonia-foundation.org/living-with-dystonia/emotional-mental-health

38. Butler. A. G. et al. The Epidemiological Study of Dystonia 2010

 

http://www.pamis.org.uk/cms/files/leaflets/emotional_well-being.pdf

 

39. Status Dystonicus Treatment Guidelines Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust

 

www.niamhsjourney.com/download/i/mark_dl/u/4007111453/…/Statusdystonicus

40. PAMIS. ‘Responding to the Mental and Emotional Needs of People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities http://www.pamis.org.uk/cms/files/leaflets/emotional_well-being.pdf

41. Mount. Graham. ‘A Feasibility Study into the Creation of an All Age Special School (2-19) for Children and Young People with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties’ See Wirral Cabinet 24thJune 2010 Public Documents Pack (pgs 120 – 150) http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/g3057/Public%20reports%20pack%2024th-Jun-2010%2018.15%20Cabinet.pdf?T=10

42. Ofsted Inspection Report for The Lyndale School November 2012

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/105136

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Strange: Labour refuse to take decision on Lyndale School tonight based on abolished predetermination rule

                      

Labour’s Councillor Tony Smith and Councillor Phil Davies have submitted an amendment to the Conservative’s notice of motion on Lyndale School. Although it’s an amendment it retains only a sentence and a half from the original motion. If Labour’s amendment is agreed the text below shows how it’ll change the original motion. Text in the original motion that is deleted by Labour’s amendment has a line through it and extra text added by Labour’s amendment is in bold.

THE LYNDALE SCHOOL

Council, having regard to the support given to the campaign to keep the Lyndale School open by the public of Wirral, resolves that:

1. It is the firm belief of Council that the Lyndale School should remain open, and in order to bring to an end the anguish and uncertainty suffered by pupils and their parents and carers, calls upon Cabinet to confirm that the school will remain open when Cabinet next meets.

2. Council recognises the unique and caring environment provided by the Lyndale School to children with profound and multiple learning difficulties. Council acknowledges the value of this provision and affirms its belief that such provision should remain at the Lyndale School.

3. Council instructs officers to work with the Wirral School’s Forum in order to investigate how the funding of Wirral’s Special Schools can more closely reflect the will of Wirral’s residents, as expressed by the huge support given to the Lyndale School: that the quality and scale of provision for children requiring the services of special schools in Wirral should continually strive to improve and be in no way diminished.

Council believes that it would be premature to take a view on the future of Lyndale School without taking into account the outcome of the comprehensive consultation process which took place recently. Any statements in favour of a particular outcome run the risk of predetermination.

Council therefore notes the views contained in this motion and agrees to refer it to the special meeting of Cabinet on the 4th September. Cabinet will consider all options relating to Lyndale School together with the outcome of the consultation exercise at that special meeting.

However the predetermination rule was abolished on 15th January 2012 when section 25 (prior indications of view of matter not to amount to predetermination) of the Localism Act 2011 became law.

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