Incredible: 1 of many responses to the Lyndale School consultation that Wirral Council refuse to release
Labour councillors at a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Coordinating Committee voting to consult on closing Lyndale School (27th February 2014)
Rather predictably, Wirral Council turned down my Freedom of Information Act request for the responses to the consultation on the closure of Lyndale School yesterday, on the basis that they would be publishing them as part of the Cabinet papers for the special meeting on the 4th September. Rather worryingly they stated in their response “Wirral Council can confirm that the requested information will be made available and published during September 2014”, however a legal requirement requires them to publish such reports at least “five clear days” before the meeting meaning the latest the responses should be published is the 27th August.
Applying the “public interest test” to this Freedom of Information Act request, they go on to state “the Council believes that all the information/responses for the consultation require collating and then they are published as a complete article. The Council does not want to release partial information at this time and
then have to amend its response.”
They’ve also not answered my question about how many responses there were to the consultation. I previously published, on the 14th July the Parents’ Response to Wirral Council Consultation Document on the Closure of The Lyndale School which in print form (at least on my computer anyway) runs to fifty-three pages.
Although councillors were sent it before the debate on Lyndale School at the last full Council meeting on the 14th July, I remember during that meeting, the Mayor Cllr Foulkes stating that he’d only received it on the Saturday before the meeting (which was on Monday evening) so how could he be expected to have time to read it before the meeting (or words to that effect)? Similar reasons were also given by councillors last week on the Audit and Risk Management Committee over the amount of time to read a late 526 page supplementary agenda.
So, despite the fact that Wirral Council don’t seem to want the consultation responses to be published until around a week before the special Cabinet meeting (perhaps because all the responses will be hundreds of pages) here is a another consultation response from a married couple of a child at Stanley School. If Lyndale School closes, Stanley School is one of the two schools that Wirral Council have suggested that Lyndale children will be transferred to. I’ve blacked out the names and contact details of the parents who wrote this response.
Personal observations and thoughts from Parents with a child at Stanley School who has Severe Learning Disabilities, Autism and who is non-verbal.
Mrs XXXXXX attended the Consultation Meeting held at Stanley School on 3rd June and visited Lyndale School on 10th June, spending a morning meeting children and staff.
Firstly, the consultation document has no explanation of PMLD other than that it means Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (or is it Disabilities!) There is also nothing about the children currently at Lyndale (apart from the number of pupils) and their complex health and medical needs which are especially relevant to this consultation. This document has not made it easy for people and parents of especially Stanley school where there are currently no children with PMLD to be consulted properly when there is no meaningful information about the children that go to Lyndale in it. It is far too general and the information too money focused with nothing about the very complex needs of the children. The term CLD is also only defined as Complex Learning Difficulties (also disabilities) and no explanation or example given again.
We are against the proposal to close Lyndale School for the following reasons:
- Lyndale school caters so well for the children who go to that school. Why jeopardise that? The children have very specific educational, care, health and developmental needs which we do not feel can be met at any other Wirral school. All avenues should be thoroughly explored to keep Lyndale School open. It is a vital part of the community it serves and it enriches the lives of the children that go there. Their families feel safe in the knowledge that their children are safe, happy and well looked after by the staff and health professionals at the school. This also aids their educational learning.
- Large schools are not necessarily better schools. The advantage of a smaller school especially for children with PMLD is that their needs can be met in more manageable and stimulating surroundings and class sizes can be much smaller and better personalised.
- Stanley school as it is currently staffed and equipped is not suitable for the children who go to Lyndale. It will need substantial investment to improve its suitability if it hopes to give children from Lyndale the same quality of life they currently have.
We can only comment on Stanley and not Elleray Park.
- The children who attend Stanley school as well as having Complex Learning Disabilities, in many cases also have additional needs stemming from autism, communication difficulties and behavioural issues. They do not have the same physical frailties as most of the Lyndale children and many will not understand the potential dangers of physical interactions.
- The practicalities of putting together 90+ very physically active children with predominantly physically frail and vulnerable children is a real worry for us and other parents/carers from both schools. There is a very real possibility of harm being caused inadvertently.
- Bringing the Lyndale children to Stanley school will bring massive disruption to all of the children from both schools. It also raises serious safeguarding issues when physically frail children are in close proximity to robust physically active children with unpredictable behaviour patterns.
- Stanley school has one full time nurse. Additional specialised staff would be needed (at significant cost) to provide medical support for the Lyndale children’s medical and health needs. Also specialised training in lots of areas including tube feeding and use of oxygen would be essential.
- Outdoor environment. There is a lack of suitable outdoor play space at Stanley even for the current children who attend. For a new build this is unacceptable and should not have been allowed to happen. There are no green spaces nor the sensory garden which was promised. The upper school playground is the
area in which the school transport drops off and picks up and was painted by the council with road markings. This has caused a vast amount of confusion and problems for a lot of children who are directed to play there when parents/carers spend so much time and effort trying to teach road safety. It will be even more unsuitable and totally uninspiring for children whose current school has a vast
amount of greenery, quiet areas, a wonderful sensory garden and practical outside spaces.
- Indoor environment. The new Stanley school has been set up to be predominantly low arousal and this conflicts with the stimulating environment at Lyndale.
- There is not currently the capacity at Stanley to cope with the relocation of Lyndale children and provide spaces for children coming through the new Education Health and Care Plan (statementing) process due to begin September 2014.
- Parents/carers chose a school for their child based on circumstances at the time of statementing. If Lyndale is closed then the council will be shifting the goal posts for many of the pupils in other Special Schools as well. This may lead to parents/carers of children in the other schools exploring alternative provision for their own children’s education as the whole ethos and set up of that school will change.
- The ideal time to bring Stanley and Lyndale together would have been when Stanley was rebuilt. The new Stanley school could have been designed to cater for all the children and would have brought the 2 schools together in one space under one roof in a totally planned and coordinated way having regards for the needs of both sets of children. This possibility of closing Lyndale and transferring the children to other schools just seems totally haphazard.
- Yes Stanley can be changed, but at what cost to Lyndale and Stanley children’s current and future education and lives? For us as a family it is not a case of not wanting Lyndale children, rather it is more that it shouldn’t have come to this situation, forcing a decision by this consultation.
- Closing Lyndale will severely reduce the flexibility and capacity of Special Educational Needs primary school places in the borough. This is a very piecemeal and frankly idiotic way of planning SEN provision in Wirral.
- SEN provision in the borough needs to be considered as a whole and not on a school by school basis as seems to be happening at the moment. Closing one school will have a massive effect on the sector because of the relatively small size of that sector. Once a school is closed there is no going back for anyone! This is a very risky strategy.
- Special schools are not the same as mainstream where they can fairly easily absorb pupils from other schools if one is closed. There are many more wider issues to consider around SEN and disability. Transition, well being, funding, resources and integration are more complex.
- The Council should be looking at the whole picture. Look at what there is now and plan for the long term future. There is a real need to come up with a sensible plan and not do it school by school.
- The Wirral Councillors making these important and ultimately life changing decisions for many children and their families have absolutely no understanding (unless they have a disabled child or relative themselves) of the demanding and challenging issues those children and families face day to day. That is why it was so important to visit Lyndale, see the children, the school, meet with the staff and gain a valuable insight into the educational lives of these children and what it means to their families.
- Each day can be a massive struggle for parents/carers and their disabled children and it is the staff and health professionals at our special schools who provide much needed and essential support to these children and families. Our Special schools of Lyndale and Stanley are very different from mainstream schools in the way that they operate a very flexible open door policy and the staff are very much like an extended family you can call on for advice and support when you need it. They are more than educational establishments, they are family and treasured for what they bring to our children. The depth of feeling on this special relationship should not be under estimated. If Lyndale is closed that
relationship will be ripped apart from those children and families. How can you replace that?
- Our children are all individuals with their own specific needs and personalities and their parents/carers know their child best. They are the ones that should be listened to and taken notice of in all areas affecting their children, especially about their education, happiness, health, safety and security. Every child is different and you cannot generalise their needs. What may be ok for one child
could be horrendous for another and people don’t always think about that. They are all children who deserve the best we can give them to enable them to flourish and have a happy life.
- It was an absolute privilege to visit Lyndale School and it would benefit no one to
close it. It would cause intolerable stress and anxiety to children, families and
staff who are uncertain about their jobs. How can taking away a major part of
their daily lives and support system be beneficial?
Mr & Mrs XXXXXX
If you have a response to the Lyndale School consultation you’d like published on this blog please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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