The questions Wirral Council couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t answer about Lyndale: can you?

The questions Wirral Council couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t answer about Lyndale: can you?

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 the meeting of Wirral Council’s Cabinet which decided to consult on closing Lyndale School (16th January 2014)

The questions Wirral Council couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t answer about Lyndale: can you?


One of the (many) problems the parents have had with Wirral Council is they feel their legitimate questions relating to the Lyndale School closure consultation have remained unanswered (and in fact stated that at the last consultation meeting). This is despite public claims (made by very senior officers) at the call-in meeting back in February about openness, transparency and about how officers would do their best.

Below this are the questions. To be fair to Wirral Council, Wirral Council have (probably) sent what they regard (although obviously not what the parents regard) as answers. So how long has Wirral Council had to answer these? Well these questions have been around since March (which you have to take into account when reading them).

It does make you wonder at times whether some officers speak a completely different dialect of English to the rest of the Wirral population! Is it any wonder that the Cabinet decision and report on the next stage has now been put back to September (instead of what was planned which was July)? Wirral Council’s website has details on how you can respond to the consultation which closes on the 25th June. I’m not going to name the officer at Wirral Council given the task of answering these questions because that would have the effect of blaming one person for a decision-making process that over the last seven months has (and I’m being charitable here) fallen short of what the Wirral public deserve.

After all the politicians (who are supposed to hold the officers to account) and who’ve made the decisions so far have to accept some responsibility, as officers are only allowed to act within the agreed policy and budget framework (and yes I can imagine some readers laughing at this sentence).

Consultation RE: The Closure of The Lyndale School – March 2014

The following document is a list of the points that have been raised thus far by the parents of the children currently attending the Lyndale School.

The document contains a number of concerns and a list of questions that we would like to have answers to. A number of these questions have been asked in the past and we have received what have purported to be answers to them. We have considered the answers, and feel that they do not in any way address the points that have been raised. We have therefore prepared this document to clarify the questions that we would like answered as well as giving more detail for the avoidance of any doubt. As you are aware, we as parents, need to ensure that our children have the same standard of care and education as they have currently. We need to make sure that they have the same level of access to both inside and outside space, that they are safe at all times. We need to ensure that they enjoy the same freedoms and inclusion that they currently have. We do not believe that this is possible in any environment other than their current school. These questions have been put together due to those concerns.

  1. The Consultation Process

  • As you are aware, we have grave concerns regarding the consultation process as a whole. There are a number of questions in relation to the process as follows

  1. When will we be provided with a named council officer to assist us with procedural as well as other queries. We were promised council staff time and resources at the first Cabinet meeting and are still waiting for that help.
  2. Funding-

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

  1. How many teachers per child have been allocated?

  2. How many TA’s per child have been allocated?

  3. Does nursing care come with this budget?

  4. Does Physio care come within this budget?

  5. Does Equipment come within this budget?

  6. How will the schools fund the additional equipment and capital expenditure which will be required for preparation of the school for our children eg changes within the school layout, decoration, provision of suitable outside space including sensory areas?

  1. Cross Funding – The funding cuts brought in by place lead funding represent a loss of £7000 per child. How exactly do they propose the saving to be met per child?

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

  1. SEN Improvement Test –

  1. Please confirm the exact procedure and process and confirm that this will look at not only Education, but also Safety, our childrens general well Being including Physiotherapy, Nursing, Sensory experience, Feeding, Space, and Toileting.

  2. We have been told that the test must be passed but have yet to be told who makes that decision as to whether the test is passed? It is clearly a very specialist area and the local authority will need the input of suitably experienced personnel. We wish to know who that will be and their level of qualification and expertise.

  3. We have been told that a needs assessment will be carried out on our children, as above, who will this be done by?

  4. Will there will be agreement between the local authority and ourselves as to the suitability of the person engaged to carry out the report?

  5. Please confirm that we will be asked to give permission for that person to access not only our children but their medical records?

  6. We also feel that it will be necessary for the parents and or carers of each child to be interviewed as the children are unable to communicate and the parents/ carers are best placed to advise on their own childs needs, please confirm that this will be done.

  7. We have been informed by Julia Hassall that each Medic involved with each child will be consulted, please confirm by whom and how this will take place.

  1. If when the SEN Report is done, it states that the SEN improvement test has not been met, what are the contingency plans? Does this mean Lyndale will stay open? Clearly any further period of uncertainty will be detrimental to the children and the parents/ carers as well as the staff and the school as a whole. We anticipate that the local authority will have contingency funds available to ensure that the school can remain open in the long term should the SEN improvement test not be met.

  2. Please confirm what will actually happen during the consultation? We are not knowledgeable nor experienced in local authority practice or procedure and need to have a clear picture of both including the timescale and dates of any proposed meetings and decisions.

  1. Please confirm we will be sent copies of any paperwork in relation to the consultation forwarding to us via paper copy or mail.

  2. We want assurance that all Councillors are looking at this from a Non Political and Non Personal view. We note from the Call In that all Councillors Labour voted – FOR and Conservative – AGAINST. We are firmly of the view that this is a political decision and want to be assured that it will be a decision based entirely on the needs of the children. I have to say that we were also quite alarmed that one of the Councillors at the call in mentioned that he personally knew the local authority witnesses and assured us that they were nice people ! We do not feel that that was at all appropriate to say and do not feel that that councillor was impartial and in fact he should not have been involved in that or any decision involving our school.

  3. Has there been an equality impact assessment done for:-

  1. SEN funding changes

  2. Lyndale Closure

  3. Schools Budget 2014/15

If there has, can we have a copy of the paperwork.

  1. The Options to be Considered

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

  2. Will the local authority look at the possibility of us becoming an academy as they would not then be involved in the running of the school?

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

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

  1. The Closure of The Lyndale School and moving the children to Stanley and Elleray Park schools

If The Lyndale School should close:-

  1. How will the children be allocated to each school?

  2. Will allocation be on geography?

  3. Will allocation be on ability?

  4. Will allocation be on age?

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

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

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

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

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

  10. We have requested the incident reports from Meadowside, Elleray, Stanley and Foxfield Schools. These are necessary to look at any potential safety issues with our children both now and if they go through transition to secondary school. We have received inadequate information. Please confirm that these records will be obtained and provided to us. We do not want any details that would identify any of the children involved so there should be no data protection issues.


Stanley School currently has 97-100 pupils and we are told that there will be 110 there within a very short space of time. It also has a waiting list. The school capacity is listed as 90(Information taken from letter from Julia Hassall dated 7 March 2014 – answer to question 8, table 2).

  1. Where are the spaces for our children?

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

  3. What if Stanley is already at 110 pupils when the consultation is in progress?

  4. If spaces are created somehow for our children, what happens to the children on the waiting list for Stanley school?

  1. Everyone knows the number of ASD and behavioral children is increasing, how will you cope with this if Stanley school is full and / or over capacity, where will the additional capacity be for any future increase in either ASD/ behavioural or PMLD children.

  2. On our Governors visit to Stanley School they had one spare classroom, however, they were told that once this school is at capacity this would be full. Where exactly are our children’s classrooms going to be and how many classes will they have? For example, for 10 children, we would need at least 2 classrooms, there are no spare classrooms in this school. We were told categorically that there was no plans to expend Stanley school however at the call in meeting Julia Hassle mentioned something about an extension, please clairfy.

  3. During our meeting with the Headmaster of Stanley and Julia Hassall, the Head informed us that he would have to stop their intake of children now, to accommodate our children in July 2015. Julia Hassall said at the call in that this is not the case, please clarify how this space is going be freed up at this school?

  4. Stanley school is low arousal. The Headmaster acknowledged that this environment would not be suitable for our children, as our children need constant stimulation. How is Stanley school going to create a stimulating, vibrant, colorful environment in and out of the classroom without impacting on existing children?

  5. How do they propose to get our children into school in the morning safely? Stanley has one door and one arrival point at present. This will be busy and noisy and a lengthy process. How can our children be offloaded quickly, quietly and safely whilst not coming into contact with the children who could potentially stress or injure them.

  6. How do they propose to get our children safely through the school during the day, will the school ensure enough staff to have one pushing the wheelchair and one walking with the child to ensure that they are safe?

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

  8. Outside space at Stanley is currently one open space sectioned off by green mesh fencing, there is no quiet area, no sensory area, nowhere suitable for wheelchair bikes. It is going to be an extremely noisy, unsafe and stressful environment. Our children currently spend a lot of time outdoors, especially during the warmer months, outside, enjoying the environment. How is this going to be replicated?

  9. Stanley does not have or as far as we are aware have never had any severely physically disabled and highly vulnerable children like ours. Are they proposing that our staff move with our children or that they take on new staff ?

  10. We as parents believe that Stanley was built with our children in mind and that the local authority were always minded to close our school. If that was not the case why was Stanley built with specific classrooms containing expensive and extensive hoisting equipment in one of their class rooms and in other communal rooms. They did not and still do not have any children needing them? (if any children did need them, they could be catered for via a portable hoist ).

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

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

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


Elleray currently has 92 pupils, their capacity (as per the same document referred to above) is 75.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  8. Will the staff be taken from The Lyndale School?

  9. How many teachers and TA’s will be allocated per each child?

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

  11. How will the school ensure that there are staff available and trained to feed each child and administer water and vent gastrostomy tubes?

  12. How will the school fund the additional equipment needed for our children ie hoisting?

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

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


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Author: John Brace

New media journalist from Birkenhead, England who writes about Wirral Council. Published and promoted by John Brace, 134 Boundary Road, Bidston, CH43 7PH. Printed by UK Webhosting Ltd t/a Tsohost, 113-114 Buckingham Avenue, Slough, Berkshire, England, SL1 4PF.

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