Councillor Phil Davies "the closure of the [Lyndale] School is the most viable option"

Councillor Phil Davies “the closure of the [Lyndale] School is the most viable option”

Councillor Phil Davies “the closure of the [Lyndale] School is the most viable option”


On Friday I published Councillor Paul Hayes “The aspiration should not be for imitation for the Lyndale School, we have the real thing”.

There was a quote by the late Terry Pratchett who put it thus “Ankh-Morpork had dallied with many forms of government and had ended up with that form of democracy known as One Man, One Vote. The Patrician was the Man; he had the Vote.”

In Wirral Council the man with the vote is the Leader of the Council Councillor Phil Davies. Here’s what he had to say about Lyndale School.

Councillor Phil Davies talks about Lyndale School 24th February 2015
Councillor Phil Davies talks about Lyndale School 24th February 2015

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Thank you Mr Mayor.

I’d like to provide my comments into a response now on Lyndale School and then the Jeff Green budget.

First of all on Lyndale School Mr Mayor, last year we had a thorough consultation about the future of Lyndale School. This consultation was supported by many discussions with parents, indeed I myself and the Cabinet Member met with parents, discussions with Members and others with an interest in the future of the School and the children.

Cabinet received reports on the 4th September and the 17th December last year which gave the outcome of the consultation and the representation period regarding the proposed closure of the Lyndale School.

Cabinet on the 17th December took the difficult decision to close the School with the agreed closure date of the 31st August 2016. At this meeting of Cabinet on the 17th December Members took into account the full range of issues and themes which emerged during the representation period.

Can I remind Members that the report to Cabinet on the 4th of September contained a detailed account of the outcome of the consultation held on the Wirral and the SEN Improvement Test?

Cabinet decided the closure because the viability of the School was compromised by its small size and falling roll. There are currently twenty-one children on the roll of the School. Members will be aware that there has been uncertainty about the future of the School for a number of years now and that uncertainty has been resolved by the Cabinet decision to close the School. Following the Schools Forum on the 14th January 2015, the schools have already been consulted on the schools budget for 15/16, this was agreed by Cabinet on the 10th February.

Taking all these factors into account, I do not believe that it is a viable option to anticipate that the Schools Forum will vote in favour of funding or retaining the Lyndale School. This is chaos. There are currently twenty-one pupils as I said before and this has been reducing in recent years.

There are two other primary schools for children with complex learning difficulties including children with profound and multiple learning difficulties which can provide good enough or better opportunities for current pupils at Lyndale School or future primary aged children with PMLD. The suitability of both these schools has been extensively considered and reported previously.

The Council has given careful consideration to its statutory duty to ensure that there is sufficient school places with further access to educational opportunities. It’s carefully considered the correct statutory process and guidance has been followed which includes careful consideration of the Special Educational Needs Improvement Test and equality impact assessment.

The size of the school and its falling roll and the availability of other suitable primary schools on the Wirral, it has taken account of all the views, representations and has considered details and implications including financial issues and concluded that the closure of the School is the most viable option.

Mr Mayor taking all these factors into account I cannot see that there is any basis for seeking a revocation notice to consult on those proposals to stop all current planned action being taken to close the Lyndale School. Similarly there is no basis I believe, obviously we’d negotiate with the Schools Forum to consider allocating money at the detriment of other schools who are already experiencing enormous financial pressures due to the allocation of a flat cash budget and increasing pressures on all schools to deliver a balanced budget.

Mr Mayor I do want to acknowledge that this has been a difficult and uncertain time for families with children at Lyndale School and their staff but every effort will be made to ensure that there are good plans for each and every child to secure alternative school provision with strong plans for transition in place well before the School closes in July 2016.

So Mr Mayor that’s my response to the Lyndale School.

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Incredible: 1 of many responses to the Lyndale School consultation that Wirral Council refuse to release

Incredible: 1 of many responses to the Lyndale School consultation that Wirral Council refuse to release

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)
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?


If you have a response to the Lyndale School consultation you’d like published on this blog please email it to me at

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Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about Stanley, Elleray, Foxfield & the educational psychologist (Part 4)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about Stanley, Elleray, Foxfield & the educational psychologist (Part 4)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about Stanley, Elleray, Foxfield & the educational psychologist (Part 4)


Continues from Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about banding, outdoor space and Stanley School (Part 3).

The person asked a question referred to the one to one care that children were receiving at Lyndale School. Julia Hassall replied that that was part of the reason behind getting up to date assessments of each child was to ensure that if they had to transfer to a different school they would get exactly the same care that they get at Lyndale.

A parent said that since the last meeting they had visited Stanley School. She said, “The facilities there don’t get me wrong are absolutely fabulous, but I’d just like you to know I would be absolutely petrified to leave Scott there. I’m absolutely petrified.” and “my child would definitely not go to Elleray so the only other choice would be Stanley and it would be a massive, massive risks for Scott to go to that school.”

Phil Ward thanked her for her point.

The next question was about if anyone had spoken to the pediatricians of children at Lyndale. She said that there were children on hospital wards that might be suitable for Lyndale School but that nobody seemed to have asked the paediatricians or specialists if these children could go to Lyndale School.

Phil Ward answered, “Sorry I can’t speak for paediatricians, but surely the point..” was interrupted by the questioner asking again if anyone had asked the paediatricians to which he replied, “No, they have not, no is the answer to that.”

The next questioner referred to Julia Hassall’s statement earlier that there was a growing number of children with complex learning difficulties and referred to something that Andrew Roberts said at the call in. She asked what would happen when they can’t get into Stanley School? She said that the parents were categorically telling you that they don’t want to send their children to those schools.

Phil Ward asked if her first question was about how they’d respond to growing numbers? He said the question had come up a number of times and the answer was that Wirral Council has a responsibility on specialist provision. When there was evidence that the numbers were growing in any particular category then they would start discussions with schools to plan places.

The next questioner said that if they were providing up to two hundred and thirty places across Stanley and Elleray Park and those places were taken up by children transferring from Lyndale then wouldn’t there not be room for the expected increase in children with complex learning difficulties?

Phil Ward said that it was an ongoing process, as children were leaving for secondary school at the same time as children joining primary school the balance was shifting and changing all the time.

Someone asked what special arrangements that Wirral Council were making to gather the views of the children, almost all of whom had no conventional language whatsoever. He said that there were issues about friendships, relationships, their sense of place and security. As well as these there were issues about a safe environment to do with children with behavioural problems being mixed in with children who were very vulnerable with poor hand eye coordination and couldn’t protect themselves and anticipate danger. He said to find out what the children themselves would need special skills and special arrangements.

Julia Hassall responded, “This is why we’ve got our principal educational psychologist pulling together a group of meetings with the key staff involved with each child, the parents, any health professionals to really understand each individual child but also how the children interact with each other.”

The same person asked when that report would be available? Julia Hassall replied, “What will, they’re very specific to individual named children these meetings to get an update. So I think it would be breaching the confidentiality of the individual children but in terms of using that information to apply this SEN Improvement Test. That’s something we will absolutely make sure the needs of the children are put at the heart of that and this independent person Lynn Wright (I’m not sure of the exact spelling of this person’s name) will absolutely make sure that the needs of the children drive the future provision.”

Councillor Chris Carubia said that he was his understanding that if Lyndale was closed then the children would go to Elleray and Stanley, however nobody had mentioned Foxfield before?

Phil Ward answered, “In relation to, so, should a final decision be made about closure of the school”… “the children have got to go somewhere else. In terms of the legislation, we then would have a responsibility as a local authority then to engage in further conversations with each of the parents, not the parents as a group but each of the parents of each child that’s got a statement of special educational needs and that discussion will be had with each of the parents who may for their own reasons decide to express a preference potentially anywhere frankly. So there’s no presumption automatically that if the school were to close children would go to A, B or C. We’ve got to enter into that conversation.”

The next person referred to a visit to Stanley School and referred to it as a “brilliant building” but wasn’t sure whether it was “usable” and that it “felt like Manchester Airport”. A woman said that when she went to Stanley that it was a ninety place school but had a hundred children in it. She said that there were ten children at the school that were not funded and would this be sorted out if the Lyndale School children went to Stanley School? Andrew Roberts replied, “In terms of places at special schools, those decisions are taken annually. So the schools take it at a point in time, the decision taken in respect of Stanley was taken last November as a census. Clearly we need to be reviewing, as do the number of places at other special schools.” Phil Ward thanked him for his answer.

Continues at Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about the sensory garden, resources, Elleray Park and Stanley (Part 5).

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Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about banding, outdoor space and Stanley School (Part 3)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about banding, outdoor space and Stanley School (Part 3)

Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about banding, outdoor space and Stanley School (Part 3)


Continues from Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: David Armstrong explains why there’s a consultation and questions begin (Part 2)

Julia Hassall said, “I think the point I was just going to raise is that we’ll make sure that the high level notes, I think it’s a very valuable suggestion looking at grouping them for each meeting to get a sense of the themes, are made public when we go to Cabinet with our report. So those will inform in part along with other things, the recommendations that are made to Cabinet.”

A member of the audience described the consultation document as “not worth the paper it’s written on” and “utterly deceiving”. Phil Ward replied with “point taken” and asked for any other questions?

A different member of the audience asked whether they would look at the banding system and see whether it was adequate? Phil Ward replied, “No, there is an intention for the work around the children, not n relation to costing but it was in relation to in the event of Cabinet agreeing to close the school and it finally does so, then we had captured the up to date information that we retain on the children so that we could begin, on an individual family basis, because we’re not talking about groups of children looking for one place or another, I have to speak up on an individual basis just to ensure that discussions with parents and discussions around the receiving schools and so forth we just had to give the fullest information. That was the purpose of that.”

David Armstrong said, “Just on the banding system, the banding system where we have five bands because of the special schools budget. Clearly, it’s new so it’s only been in place for a short while and I mentioned the Schools Forum before. We had an issue before to review that, clearly we’ve got to make it run for this financial year.” He referred to the Schools Forum and how questions about the banding feed into the Schools Forum.

Someone in the audience said that even if the school was full, that this didn’t matter as what mattered was whether they were adequately funded because without that they couldn’t stay open. Phil Ward replied to that and Councillor Dave Mitchell referred to a petition to Council five years ago about Lyndale School and a presentation. He referred to bullet points from the agreed notice of motion and other issues presented at that time. He asked if that would be presented to Cabinet?

David Armstrong replied, “The Cabinet report will have to include the history of all the previous reports that have gone over the last couple of…”

Councillor Dave Mitchell asked, “Will that include the decisions made by Council which were fully supported by all parties?” David Armstrong answered, “No, it would just include references to previous reports.” Councillor Dave Mitchell replied, “I think that’s a very important issue, it should be actually highlighted. It was a notice of motion to Council and it was fully supported by the local authority at that time.” Julia Hassall said, “We did make very clear reference to that to my recollection at the call in.” Phil Ward thanked Councillor Dave Mitchell for his point.

Someone from the audience said they wanted to raise a point about outdoor space at the three schools (Lyndale, Elleray Park and Stanley). She said she thought it was where it’s going to fall down on the SEN [Improvement] Test. Lyndale School was described as “it’s an absolutely fabulous site, it’s got established gardens, it’s got established trees, we take children out into the garden, we take lessons in the garden, we take children at a lunchtime”. She said, “the idea of squashing people in is not conducive to a good education”. Phil Ward replied, “Thank you for that point.”

The next question was about Stanley School. David Armstrong replied, “The school’s brand new and what we learnt when the Lyndale School was built was looking at primary schools. We built them absolutely tight on the existing campus. We found that the schools became more popular and also you’re building something for fifty or sixty years. We’re building something for fifty or sixty years, so we’re building to a generous standard and the new style that was built to a generous standard.

The school, the school that we’re building had a capacity of ninety pupils. The new building is capable of taking a hundred and ten and the reason for that is that we’ll be building to the maximum standards in place, we’re building some spare capacity because we’re investing several million pounds for the next couple of years.”

The next question was if there were any children with profound and multiple learning disabilities at Stanley School? David Armstrong answered, “The school was built to take the full range of pmld [profound and multiple learning disabilities]. The same questioner asked, “Are there any there at the moment?” followed by asking that if you put four or five from Lyndale into the school surely it would fail the SEN [Improvement] test as Lyndale provided one to one care in a school that catered for their complex needs? Phil Ward replied, but people started talking over each other again.

Julia Hassall said that she’d talked about the children with profound and multiple learning disabilities not growing in size, but that there had been an increase in children with complex learning difficulties, the questioner referred to the numbers over the last five years. Julia Hassall replied, “In terms of how we meet the SEN Improvement Test we are confident that the staff at the Stanley School…” and then was then interrupted.

Continues at Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: questions about Stanley, Elleray, Foxfield, the educational psychologist (Part 4).

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