What were the 6 A4 pages of partially redacted minutes of a Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee meeting and the name of a LGA Associate Tutor that Wirral Council disclosed voluntarily in response to a First Tier-Tribunal (General Regulatory chamber) hearing (case number EA/2016/0033) about a Freedom of Information request first made in March 2013?

What were the 6 A4 pages of partially redacted minutes of a Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee meeting and the name of a LGA Associate Tutor that Wirral Council disclosed voluntarily in response to a First Tier-Tribunal (General Regulatory chamber) hearing (case number EA/2016/0033) about a Freedom of Information request first made in March 2013?

What were the 6 A4 pages of partially redacted minutes of a Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee meeting and the name of a LGA Associate Tutor that Wirral Council disclosed voluntarily in response to a First Tier-Tribunal (General Regulatory chamber) hearing (case number EA/2016/0033) about a Freedom of Information request first made in March 2013?

Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX (the venue for First-Tier Tribunal case EA/2016/0033)
Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX (the venue for First-Tier Tribunal case EA/2016/0033)

I will start by declaring an interest as I was the Appellant in case EA/2016/0033. I am also married to my McKenzie Friend in this matter Mrs Leonora Brace.

Court | Room: Tribunal Room 5, 3rd Floor, Liverpool Civil and Family Court Hearing Centre, 35 Vernon Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L2 2BX

Oral Hearing
On: 16th June 2016
Time: 10.15am

First-tier Tribunal (General Regulatory Chamber)
Case Ref: EA/2016/0033

Mr | John Brace (Appellant)
ICO (First Respondent)
Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council (Second Respondent)

Mr. David Farrer QC Tribunal Judge
Mr. Michael Hake Tribunal Member
Dr Malcolm Clarke Tribunal Member

Clerk: Clare Adams

Continue reading “What were the 6 A4 pages of partially redacted minutes of a Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee meeting and the name of a LGA Associate Tutor that Wirral Council disclosed voluntarily in response to a First Tier-Tribunal (General Regulatory chamber) hearing (case number EA/2016/0033) about a Freedom of Information request first made in March 2013?”

What did a 3 year FOI battle with Wirral Council reveal about councillors’ equipment and training?

What did a 3 year FOI battle with Wirral Council reveal about councillors’ equipment and training?


ICO Information Commissioner's Office logo
ICO Information Commissioner’s Office logo

A fortnight ago, required to do so by ICO decision notice FS50596346 Wirral Council finally provided some more information in response to my FOI request first made on the 29th March 2013.

I will point out (in case you’re wondering why it has taken nearly three years to get to that point) that this request has also been the subject of two other ICO decision notices FS50509081 and FS50569254.

So far Wirral Council has stated that the information requested would cost too much (section 12), that to give me the information would be prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs (section 36), that they class that doing an internal review of that decision as vexatious (section 14) and now finally when all of those prior decisions have been proven to be flawed, they withheld some of the information requested claiming it’s personal information (section 40).

My feeling about this is that Wirral Council, who refer to their approach in public as open and transparent have tried to engage in attrition warfare with myself and the regulator ICO over this request.

Mind you this is Wirral Council. Wirral Council is where responses to FOI requests from the press get delayed because they have to be "signed off" by the former head of their press office Emma Degg and their Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour?

So what did I request that was released a fortnight ago? One document was minutes of the Members’ (Members’ means Councillors’) Equipment Steering Group meeting held on the 7th February 2013. The other document was minutes of the Members’ Training Steering Group held on the 19th March 2013.

Quite what is in these two documents that requires a nearly three year cover up about their contents, I’m not sure. The scanned pages Wirral Council have supplied for the meeting of the Members’ Equipment Steering Group and the Members’ Training Steering Group are unfortunately scanned at a low resolution which can make them hard to read. So I will reproduce them both below starting with the Members’ Equipment Steering Group. As that mentions audio recording and webcasting of committee meetings I will declare an interest.

The part of this request that relates to the minutes of a meeting of the Headteachers and Teachers Joint Consultative Committee I have appealed to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) and am at the stage of awaiting ICO’s response to my appeal.

Actions from Members’ Equipment Steering Group Meeting held on 7 February 2013

  1. Actions from the last Meeting
    I Pads had been discounted at the last meeting.

  2. Members’ Homepage and Toolkit
    – Homepage
    Members would consider the proposed content and come back to XXXXXXXXXXXX with any suggestions for inclusion.

    – Toolkit
    The proposed detail of the Members’ Toolkit was endorsed and XXXXXXXXXXXX would progress it.

  3. Councillor Equipment Device Options
    XXXXXXXXXXXX would obtain a price for the following devices:
    430 i 5
    430 i 3
    A recommendation will be made to the Cabinet subject to price and specification
  4. Councillor Equipment Printer Options
    The preferred printer was HP Office Jet 8000. In exceptional circumstances only would a Member’s own printer be connected to the network.
  5. Wireless in Wallasey Town Hall
    All Committee Rooms in the Town Hall would have wifi facilities by the time Members were in possession of their new IT kit.

    Officers will look at the possibility of Members being able to receive emails on smart phones via wifi.

  6. Councillor Equipment Rollout Timetable
    – Personally owned Ipad
    A system would be purchased, configured and installed by IT Services to allow Members to use their own Ipads.

    – Laptop
    This was an option. Members will keep their existing bag.

    – Router
    This was an option.

    – Telephone Handsets
    Members would keep their existing handsets.

    – Furniture
    New furniture would not be purchased

    – Modern.gov Application
    Modern.gov could provide an Application so that Personal Devices could access "Exempt Items" at a cost of £3000. This would not be taken up

    – Political Offices
    Office staff would not be included in the new equipment roll out.

    – Windows XP and Office 2010

    – Broadband Choices

    – Further Members’ Survey

  7. Councillor Case Management Systems
  8. Use of Personal Electronic Devices
  9. Use of Councillors own equipment
  10. iPad and HP Slate Autumn Trial
  11. Audio Recording and Webcasting of Committee Meetings
  12. Date and Time of Next Meeting

    XXXXXXXXXXXX to canvass Members and arrange the next meeting.

  13. Any Other Business

Below should be the Action Minutes of the Member Training Steering Group held on the 19th March 2013. On the original there is a third column with OD (Organisational Development) Team written next to points two to nine. It’s easier to write this in HTML without creating the way it is laid out as a table so I have left this out. I’ve also left out the page numbers and the filename/path on Wirral Council’s computer that it’s stored. However these can be viewed on the original.

Action Minutes

Member Training Steering Group

19 March 2013

Apologies -: Surjit Tour, XXXXXXXXXXXX

Attending -: Cllr McLachlan (Chair), Cllr Clements, Cllr Glasman, Cllr Gilchrist, Cllr Harney, Cllr Hornby, Chris Hyams, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

  1. Welcome and introductions

    The group welcomed XXXXXXXXXXX who is an associate tutor with the LGA and will be providing an overview of the Leadership Programme for Members

    Noted that Cllr Clements did not attend the last meeting and apologies had been received.

  2. Minutes and Matter Arising

    a) Terms of Reference
    Agreed that the Chief Executive would be included as support for the group.

    The group would continue to sign off requests for training and will continue to be mindful of the travel and accommodation costs.

    Agreed that OD would report back on a quarterly basis training approval decisions.

    Agreed to put the terms of reference into themes and circulate.

    b) Recruitment to Leadership Modules

    Agreed that Members should forward names to XXXXXX to reserve a place on the course and to contact XXX should they have any queries.
    An introduction session will run on the 10th April a Flyer will be sent out providing the details of the session. XXXXX explained that the Pre course briefing would cover an introduction to the programme followed by the completion of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator questionnaire as this would form the basis for the content on Module one, feedback would then be provided either face to face, which preferable or over the phone, prior to the programme commencing on the 8th May.

    It was noted that participants are required to attend both modules to benefit from the programme.

    c) Elected Member training onto the committee calendar

    Agreed to escalate the request to include members training from the skills for Wirral programme into the committee calendar.

  3. Standing Item – Training Update (since last meetings)

    a) 13th February – Developing the Council of the Future

    Noted that 30 attended the event with a mixture of feedback

    Agreed to chase up the feedback from this event and share with Members.

    Agreed to look at how Member’s could be provided with more opportunities to feedback and participate in these events.

    b) Public Health and Wellbeing: 20 February 2013

    Noted that 9 attended with very good feedback

    c) Understanding Local Government Finance: 27 February 2013

    Noted that 8 attended with very good feedback

    d) Media Skills

    Noted that 2 attended with very good feedback

    e) High Level Communications Skills

    Noted that 5 attended with very good feedback

    f) Attendance on training

    Agreed to continue to send reminders for training but as a rolling programme of events that month and to include flash reminder the day of the training that spaces are available.

  4. Standing Item – Upcoming training ( Members Development Programme)

    a) Effective Surgeries and Caseload Management Training

    Agreed to look at were we are up to with an Electronic System for case load Management. Meeting already arranged with IT to discuss this and Members IT training, feedback would be provided at the next meeting.

    b) Training Venues

    Agreed to look at other venues rather than The Laurie’s Centre for Elected Member training sessions and move the training already book to other venues, to minimise costs.

  5. Standing Item – Approved Duty Requests

    No outstanding approved duties

    a) Spending for Approved duties

    Members to discuss and feedback as to how they would like to spend monies for approved duties, agreed to monitor on a case by case basis.

    b) Feedback from Events Attended

    Agreed to look at feedback from events and if particularly effective consider developing a Wirral version of the event.

  6. Standing Item – Budget

    a) Profile 2012-2013

    Budget profile discussed and noted that there would be an under spend this year. Details shared with the group.

    b) Profile 2013-2014

    Approximately £13,000 has been committed to date. Budget to be monitored at each meeting.

    c) Spending for Approved Duties
    Agreed to explore options around external funding available.

  7. Members Development Charter.

    a) PDP Returns
    46 PDP have been completed with 6 scheduled for April. This would bring the total to 52 PDP completed, which takes us over the 75% requirement for completion of the Members Charter. Agreed to continue to encourage the completion of all outstanding PDPs.

  8. Members Development Programme Accreditation

    a) Agreed for flyer to be sent to all Elected Members to promote the programme

    b) Additional information from ilm to be sent to Cllr Harney

  9. AOB

    a) 4th April New Constitutional Event 6pm – 8pm Floral

    b) 16 May Key Transformation and Improvement Agenda Session
    Suggestion from Cllr Glasman Ethics and Conduct.

    c) Training for Members – Directorships and Trusts

    Advert to be sent to Elected Members when programme agreed

  10. Date and Time of next meeting

    30 April 2013 4 – 5.15pm

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

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

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


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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 publicly 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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10 weeks left in Lyndale School closure consultation

10 weeks left in Lyndale School closure consultation

10 weeks left in Lyndale School closure consultation


front of thank you card from Lyndale staff and children
Front of thank you card from Lyndale staff and children (you can click on the image for a higher quality version)

inside of thank you card from Lyndale staff and children
(you can click on the image for a higher quality version)

As you can see above, Leonora and I received a thank you card fortnight ago from the Lyndale staff and children (the scanned images probably don’t do it justice). So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Lyndale staff and children for the thank you card.

In the three and half years since starting this blog I think it’s the first thank you card that Leonora and I have received and came completely out of the blue so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Lyndale staff and children for creating it and sending it.

The consultation on closing Lyndale School started on April 2nd. The consultation document can be downloaded here, as well as the Cabinet report. The link from Wirral Council’s consultation page to the Coordinating Committee report doesn’t work. However it can be read on this blog at pages five to six of this document. Hopefully Wirral Council will fix the link! There is also a feedback form and Wirral Council has more detail about the consultation on closing Lyndale School on this page on their website.

Video of the original Cabinet decision of the 16th January is below (the item starts in the first video at 1:53). Video of the Coordinating Committee meeting of the 27th February is below that. This blog has also published transcripts of the Lyndale School item at the Cabinet meeting and a partial transcript of the Coordinating Committee meeting. The transcript of the Lyndale item at the Cabinet meeting can be found at How did the Lyndale School closure consultation begin?. The Coordinating Committee item on Lyndale School last for about three and a half hours. The first transcript of it is at What did officers say at the Lyndale School call in? “we had a problem the rules mattered more than the children”, followed by What did officers say about Lyndale School in reply to “how much money you would expect to get if you sold that land?”. During the consultation period I hope to have the time to type up some more transcripts of the Coordinating Committee meeting.

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Wirral Council Cabinet meeting of 16th January 2014 at which the decision to consult on closing Lyndale School was made

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Wirral Council Coordinating Committee meeting of 27th February 2014 at which the Cabinet decision to consult on closing Lyndale School was reviewed

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How did the Lyndale School closure consultation begin?

How did the Lyndale School closure consultation begin?

How did the Lyndale School closure consultation begin?


Councillor Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Childrens Services) talks at a meeting of Wirral Council's Cabinet about deciding to consult on closing Lyndale School (16th January 2014)
Councillor Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Childrens Services) talks at a meeting of Wirral Council’s Cabinet about deciding to consult on closing Lyndale School (16th January 2014)

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Video footage starts at ends at 1:53 ends at 28:48 (just under 27 minutes)

Next week Wirral Council will start a consultation on closing Lyndale School. I thought it would be useful prior to the consultation to publish a transcript of the Cabinet meeting held back in January where it all started. I will state this caveat though. Some of the things stated at the January Cabinet meeting are now incorrect as Wirral Council withdrew its application to the Education Funding Agency for an exemption from the minimum funding guarantee (the minimum funding guarantee guarantees the school gets at least 98.5% of last year’s funding).

Cabinet 16th January 2014
Committee Room 1, Wallasey Town Hall
Agenda Item 14. Report seeking approval to consult on the closure of Lyndale School

This is a link to the Cabinet report titled “Report seeking approval to consult on the closure of Lyndale School”.


Now I’ve been given notice that we have a parent of Lyndale School, Dawn Hughes. Welcome Dawn. So it’s my intention to allow Dawn to address the Cabinet, then I think Julia Hassall (the Director of Children’s Services) will introduce the report and then Tony Smith Cabinet Member will want to make some comments. So that’s the procedure that I intend to adopt. So Dawn, can I invite you to come forward and speak to us. Could you just give us your full name and address first of all before you say anything to us?

Yeah, it’s Dawn Hughes, 24 ??? Road, Bebington, Wirral.

Now Dave is just going to switch on the microphone for you, OK. So just take a seat, in your own time just say what you want to say to us.

Can I ask if these could be passed round?

Of course, absolutely, yeah, yeah.

My name is Dawn

Just take your time, that’s fine, yeah, thank you.

Hello everyone, my name is Dawn Hughes which you’ve just heard.

My daughter Ellie attends Lyndale School and the disruption that is being proposed is a lot worse than Miss Hassall’s report. It would take me longer than five minutes just to explain my child’s diagnosis and all the ways it affects her daily life.

She is not unusual at Lyndale, this is the level of capacity that the nursing staff deal with every day. But to deal with practical matters first, I want to ask you to show us that you are sincere when you say that you have the needs of our children at the heart of this process by further extending the twelve week consultation and allowing our governors access to resources like Council staff time so that we can explore other options. Then we can take all the time needed to give due weight to this important issue.

Miss Hassall’s report details falling roll numbers at Lyndale, leading to escalating costs with little qualifying information. The truth is that Lyndale has lived under the threat of closure for eight years which leads pre-school services to discourage prospective parents.

Lyndale parents have strongly supported a two to nineteen option for Lyndale for many years so that their very vulnerable children can avoid the unnecessary and cruel distress of transition to an unfamiliar environment and community. This option along with inviting in children from out of area would have increased roll numbers and it is still possible for this to happen if the will is there.

This report says that Lyndale is not financially viable, but the national average spent, the amount on PMLD children is £29,000. That’s against Lyndale’s spend of £33,000, a shortfall of £4,000 per a child and that’s not considering the complexity of needs. Also not a great deal of scope in terms of the local authority budget. This shortfall would be lessened by greater occupancy. The high need of our children means that the cost of education would be the same provided by an alternative school or an alternative.

Our parents feel that the £16,000 top up for PMLD [profound and multiple learning difficulties] children is simply not enough to cover their needs and clearly we’re looking at how this figure was arrived at. Is it based on need or cost?

We know national government decisions have made things difficult but the Discretionary Schools Grant is administered locally and it is within your powers to allocate more where there is need. The SEN [special educational needs] Improvement Test legally means that you have to provide as good as or preferably better provision for our children.

The test would have to look at provision in the suggested alternative schools. Miss Hassall has said that Stanley School and Elleray Park are equipped to take Lyndale children but they are already full to bursting. I spoke to both schools recently. Stanley said they had 97 children already against a capacity of 90 and Elleray Park has 92 pupils and only 75 actual places. Where are our children going to fit?

If you plan to extend these schools why not invest that money to continue to provide good quality PMLD [profound and multiple learning difficulties] provision at Lyndale? Stanley School has never in its history had a PMLD [profound and multiple learning difficulties] child so it has no experience in this field. Lyndale parents are very worried about the safety of their children and their needs.

We contemplate the mix of PMLD [profound and multiple learning difficulties] and children with behavioural difficulties. Many of our children are on life support, oxygen, naso-gastric or gastroscomy feeds and should any of this equipment be pulled out it could be fatal within seconds.

Many of our children cannot purposefully moved at all, and should they be bitten or hit, and should they be bitten or hit they cannot defend themselves. It is madness to put these two types of children together.

Lots of our children are hyper-sensitive to noise or some movement for example. For some children noise is unbearable and induces seizures. My own daughter’s hypersensitive and contracts painful muscle spasms which can last for months leaving her unable to sleep, eat or swallow amongst other horrible symptoms. I don’t even have family around at Christmas because Ellie can’t tolerate bustle, how would she cope in a big, noisy school?

The alternative to mixed disability classes would be to segregate our children within a mixed school. The problem here is that in an emergency (such as a child needing resuscitation or having a seizure which happens frequently to many of our children) medical staff would have to navigate their way through keypad locked doors losing valuable seconds which again could prove fatal to our children.

Aside from these very real safety concerns, Stanley and Elleray are not suitable in this way. Lyndale provides a community atmosphere where children can move freely and safely around the school, visiting each other’s classrooms and socialising at lunchtime and other activities. Why should they be locked away for their own safety in a school which is unsuitable for them in the first place?

No one would sensibly suggest putting heart patients and meningitis sufferers on the same ward with the same doctors for the obvious reasons that they require different environments and treatments despite both having the label of “being ill”. In the same way we can’t treat all children that who have got the label of learning disabilities in the same way either.

Autistic and PMLD [profound and multiple learning difficulties] children have very different medical, environmental, educational and emotional needs. For example PMLD [profound and multiple learning difficulties] children need a stimulating, colourful sensory environment, exactly the opposite of what the type of environment autistic children need.

Parents have asked me to tell you that should Lyndale close, they will either keep their children at home or send them to schools out of area. This will incur a huge cost to the local authority.

The truth is we don’t think that it serves our children’s best interests to move at all. Many people feel our children are “just sitting there” with no consciousness of what happens around them, but I know that when Ellie looks at me with a twinkle in her eye it means she wants to play. I know that when other people see blankness she is in fact concentrating hard. I know when she is in pain or sad or anxious or ill and the staff at Lyndale have taken years to build up the same knowledge – that our children have an inner life as rich as yours or mine despite their inability to communicate it through normal means.

If you force them to move, they will feel the loss of all the people they trust and love and the loss of a placement that they were safe in for years. I ask yourself to put yourselves in their shoes for one minute.

Imagine being completely reliant on others for everything that happens to you and then imagine going to a strange place, where you know no-one and no-one is able to understand you when you try to tell them how you feel. Many of our children could not cope with the upheaval of a move. Change induces anxiety in our children and anxiety significantly worsens their disabilities and illnesses. They then suffer in a way that you would find unimaginable.

I’ve come to accept it with sadness over the years that Ellie will never learn to speak, eat or play independently or be able to take GCSEs. Many of our children don’t even make it to the end of primary school. It is painful for many parents with PMLD [profound and multiple learning difficulties] children to be constantly talked at by educationalists about “achievement” and the need to move on.

Ellie is 11 and still likes peek-a-bo. All she needs is a special place where she is happy and she can rely on the consistency and environment and the adults around her. Lyndale allows for the days when the children frequently feel under par and brings therapy or treatment into the classroom.

Lyndale staff know that ill health is part and parcel of our children’s lives and to accommodate this into their individual sensory curriculum. I don’t believe that you can provide that at bigger schools with no PMLD [profound and multiple learning difficulties] experience. I don’t believe you better Lyndale to pass the SEN improvement test, you certainly can’t convince me or the other parents.

I imagine that most of you who have children or grandchildren and that they are the apple of your eye, quite rightly so. Now imagine that you are forced by some authority to send them to a place for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week to a place where you know that they will unsafe, unhappy and possibly grossly, maybe fatally misunderstood. How would that feel?

And how much worse must that be for us who care for such fragile children every day? I ask you not as councillors or as administrators, but as parents, grandparents and decent human beings, please do not close our school.

I will extend an invitation to all members of the Cabinet to attend a meeting with our parents and visit our children. Come along and get to know them and see the wonderful work that Lyndale does. Thank you for your attention.

Thank you for a very clear presentation. Thank you very much.


OK, can I now ask Julia Hassall (Director of Children’s Services) to come and put forward and introduce the report, Julia.

Thank you Chair. I just want to start by saying I appreciate that what I’m going to say now will sound very cold and factual following on from Dawn’s description of the some of the children at Lyndale and indeed our own report and I just want to acknowledge that before I start my presentation.

From the outset, I think this report is saying that this report is being brought to Cabinet this evening to seek permission to consult on closing the school and it’s not seeking permission to actually close the school.

Meeting the needs of the children is actually central to our concern and we are starting by working in partnership with the school to create an up to date needs assessment for each child. There’s real commitment and I put it to you now that the process is to be very transparent and open.

The report sets out the background and the reasons why it’s felt necessary to consult on closing Lyndale School down. Local authorities have a statutory duty to ensure that there are sufficient places, school places in their area to ensure fair access to educational opportunity to promote the fulfilment of every child’s potential.

To do this any plans must consider the educational benefits for children, value for money and the way schools can develop collaborative practice for the benefit of the children. In this instance the local authority will need to take into account current provision for children with complex learning difficulties and profound and multiple learning difficulties at the Lyndale School, Elleray Park and Stanley primary schools, Foxfield and Meadowside secondary schools.

The reasons for considering on consulting on closure of the school are set out in paragraph 2.4 of the report. Closure of the school is being proposed for consideration because the viability of the school is compromised by the small size and falling roll which both contribute to a difficult financial position.

This proposal is not being made to Cabinet because of the quality of educational standards at the school. The most recent OFSTED inspection from November 2012 judged that Lyndale School was a good school and that pupil care and support, behaviour and safety were assessed to be outstanding.

In terms of the falling school roll, by way of background if every available place was taken then the occupancy would be 100%. Over the last seven years, the Lyndale School’s average occupancy has been 59% and there are currently twenty-four children at the school out of a total of forty places.

The size of the school and the numbers of pupils contributes to, as I’ve said previously, a difficult financial position with the likelihood of a deficit of £72,000 without any other action for 2014/15 which is 9% of the school’s budget and the potential for this to increase to £232,000 based on the numbers of children at Lyndale on the school roll.

Just to say a little bit by way of background about the funding reforms. Funding for pupils with special educational needs changed in April last year. The new system is called place plus. This means that the government pays £10,000 for each child that the schools place. In Wirral this year it’s being introduced gradually, but in future with £10,000 paid per a place, with 24 children in a forty place school this could mean a shortfall now of sixteen places or £160,000.

A Cabinet report that we’re presenting later this evening recommends a new approach to high needs top ups of … dependant on the child’s level of needs. This …

The top up now per a child is dependant on the additional needs of the child. It’s set by the local authority in agreement with the special schools and high needs providers on the Wirral who make recommendations to their representatives on the Schools Forum.

The majority of the children at the Lyndale School will receive the maximum top up payment per a child of £16,000 based on their profound and multiple learning difficulties which was described to us so clearly by Dawn.

This is the highest band which applies to all four special schools on Wirral for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties. These national funding reforms have brought the Lyndale School provision into sharp focus. One of the difficulties the school faces is in terms of its small size and therefore large unit costs.

Should a decision be taken in the future to close Lyndale School, then the proposal at this stage would be to expand Elleray Park School and Stanley School so that the children with complex learning difficulties including the children with profound and multiple learning difficulties are educated and cared for on the same school site whilst recognising the individual needs of each child. This would not simply be a case of adding children into existing schools. We’re very carefully considering how each school will need to change to fully meet the needs of the children from the Lyndale School.

It’s proposed to expand the numbers of children across both schools up to two hundred and thirty children. Building work at Elleray Park is already planned to address sufficiency and suitability issues and this will be through a one-off capital investment. .. recent OFSTED reports, Elleray Park School was judged to be an outstanding school whilst Stanley School was judged to be a good school with outstanding leadership and partnership.

It’s very important to say that at this stage, the closure of the school appears to be the most viable option after having considered a number of different options attached as appendix two. However if this report is agreed by Cabinet, this will be the start of a lengthy consultation process with parents, staff and stakeholders but all available options will be considered including previously considered options set out in the appendix.

In terms of consultation, if Cabinet agree, then what will follow is a period of twelve weeks consultation after which a further report will be presented to Cabinet detailing the findings of this initial consultation. If the second report recommends the closure of the school and Cabinet agrees, a further formal six week consultation will follow. This is known as a representation period and the final report will .. to before Cabinet. It is only at this stage that a decision to close the school should that be approved can be taken.

My report sets out how a number of meetings with all representative bodies including meetings with parents and carers of … where a number of questions have been raised. The minutes and results of some questions will be sent to all parent carers next week. There is a commitment to work with the school to ensure full up to date needs assessment on each child as soon as possible which will help determine how children’s needs can be met which is very much a sustainable way forward. Should the decision be made tonight to proceed to consultation, a full schedule of consultation events will take place and they’ll be published.

In summary, I want to conclude by saying that considering the closure of a school is difficult and distressing particularly when children have such special needs as the Lyndale School does. It’s clearly important that Lyndale is a place at the centre of our concerns and that the special educational needs assessment improvement test is applied with rigour.

The test requires any future plans to demonstrate our children will maintain the quality of current provision and indeed improve upon it. I recommend that Cabinet agree to consult on closure of the Lyndale School and that I’m authorised to compile and produce the appropriate documentation to start the consultation as soon as is practically possible. Thank you.

Thanks Julia very much. OK, so I’m now going to ask Tony Smith whose the Cabinet Member for Childrens Services to make some comments.

OK, thanks for that Chair. Thanks very much Dawn for that. Dawn can I first of all say that I certainly will come round with you and meet with the staff and parents at Lyndale and if necessary spend as many days as possible in the school and can I also make this clear? This is a consultation, the officers have already formed a view on Lyndale School and that.

Having worked in that area I do know the concerns of parents and the environment looking at the school at Lyndale and that. I’m also very conscious that it has been an outstanding service to the Authority. You’ve always had good or outstanding OFSTED reports and that and over the last sort of six or seven years the numbers have been falling in the school and that has to be a bit of a problem and that but I do want to make this very, very clear that with regarding how open and transparent the process is.

If you do need any questions answered, if you do need any officer support I will ensure that you know that that is available and you know anyway that will be allowed like that. No options are out at this stage, I’ll make that clear as well. Even if the options are not in the papers that have been put forward, if people have other options then we will certainly listen to those options as well and that.

We are very lucky I have to say in this Authority to have outstanding special schools. It’s not often the case in local authorities that that happens and that. Whether it’s Lyndale or Elleray or Stanley or the other special schools we do really, really well in the Authority. So we do put our children in special educational needs with a high priority and I want to ensure that continues that way.

If there was any change and I don’t know whether there that would be enough … We will listen to the cuts consultation and that we are happy to say that we do have other outstanding schools and that.

So I don’t want to say much more than that really. I will come round into the school with some other Cabinet Members, they need to come round and making sure that happens as well. If you need help and support from the Authority, if you’ve got any question you want to ask or anything you feel you has to go in then we certainly would support that.

I’m happy with the content of the Director’s report. I think it’s been fair. It’s outlined what the pros and what’s happened in the organisation over the last six or seven years and that. The position that we are in at the moment, also the changes that have been brought about nationally and that. We’ll certainly keep an open mind. I think the twelve weeks consultation should give us sufficient time to be able to engage in that process and that but feel free to come back to me at any time if there’s any queries and that if necessary I’ll certainly revisit the school and that but thank you very much on behalf of the Cabinet for that contribution and I will be seeing you …

OK thanks Tony. OK, can I just say a few words. I mean first of all thanks to Dawn for such a clear presentation. I think that was really helpful to hear first hand.

I mean the other thing I want to say you know there’s no question Lyndale is a fantastic school, it provides you know a high quality education for its pupils and nobody would want to take a decision like this lightly. So I think it is important that we allow sufficient time for all options to be properly considered and it is important that we as Cabinet Members and Tony as the Cabinet Member for Childrens Services keep an open mind on all the options.

Appendix 2 of this report there are eight options identified. I know from personal experience when I was Cabinet Member for Childrens Services I know that if other options emerge during the consultation then I think that’s absolutely fine and we need to consider them, but I think you know we need to make sure that the outcome being completely open and transparent process for how we go about looking at this and obviously any help, support, advice, guidance you need… that we can give to help this process and for the parents and governors and the staff and everybody to feel that their voices have been heard and we’re happy to give that help and advice.

So I think the main thing now is in my view is to agree this report. We’re not making any decision tonight about any particular option. We’re just agreeing to consult around those options.

I myself, you know I’ve been down to back into Lyndale before and I’m sure there are other Cabinet Members who will avail themselves of the opportunity to go and have a look at the school and its staff, governors and parents I think that’s absolutely fine. So by the time that we come back to Cabinet with a further report at the end of the consultation period everybody hopefully will be content that we’ve done a proper sort of job making sure that we’ve looked at every possible option and certainly Dawn you’ve spoke tonight with passion about your feelings and we will sort of take those feelings on board.

So I think really that’s all I want to say, I just want to thank Dawn and the other parents and governors for coming here tonight and I want to add my support to Tony for recommendations outlined in the report at paragraph twelve that we agree to consult on the closure of Lyndale School, that the Director of Children’s Services or her nominee be authorised to compile the appropriate consultation documentation and proceed with the consultation exercise as soon as practically possible. Can I ask Cabinet if we can agree to those recommendations?


OK, so we’ve agreed those recommendations. I’d like to again thank everybody who’s coming tonight to hear this report for your attendance and I really do sincerely look forward to the consultation and making sure that everybody is given an opportunity to have their say. So thank you very much for your attendance tonight. OK, I’ll make a pause at that point and allow people who are just here for Lyndale if they want to leave they can do so. So we’ll just have a couple of minutes adjournment.

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