Controversial consultation on city’s SEND schools move to end

A controversial consultation that could lead to children with special educational needs being relocated across Liverpool ends tomorrow.

Since March, Liverpool Council has engaged in a public engagement exercise as it attempts to tackle the “dramatic increase” in need for school places. As part of the proposals, parents, guardians and education stakeholders have been asked for their views on the future of three city special schools and pupil referral units.

The plans asked for input on the possibility of Bank View School on Long Lane relocating 14 miles away to Parklands in Speke. The consultation also asked for views on moving Princes School on Selborne Street to Redbridge School on Long Lane, while Redbridge would move into Bank View as they occupy the same site.

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The viability of New Heights Key Stage 4 site relocating from Parklands to the vacant school premises on Naylorsfield Drive is also being considered. The schools could be relocated as the city looks to meet the “dramatic increase” in young people with education health and care plans (EHCP).

A report to the local authority’s cabinet said more than 4,000 children in Liverpool have EHCPs, an increase of 46 per cent since 2019. Further discussions will be held with leadership at Ernest Cookson School, Hope School, Clifford Holroyde School and Woolton High School regarding future organization and the delivery of education at these locations for young people with social, emotional, and mental health needs.

Cllr Tom Logan, cabinet member for education and skills, said that Liverpool “does not have enough places to meet demand” currently and “radical changes” were needed to the system with the consultation acting as a starting point. According to the cabinet documents, relocation of the schools would enable a long-term plan to create additional school places ”as Liverpool Council currently places children in the independent non-maintained special school sector at“ considerable expense ”due to the lack of suitable provision and places in the city in the maintained provision.

Movement of the sites would “reduce the long-term pressure on the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) High Needs funding” according to the report as “pupil place costs of education children in borough are substantially lower than placing children and young people in the independent sector, ”it is claimed. It is estimated that for 2021-2022 Liverpool will spend more than an estimated £ 10m on school places for pupils in the independent sector.

Parents have told the LDRS of their frustration with the proposals, with one dad, who asked not to be named and met with officers, said the atmosphere had been “heated” with many parents frustrated by the plans. He added that in his view, the plans “still did not make sense.” The dad told the LDRS he was shocked to hear officials had not done an assessment of the cost of additional travel for pupils making the journey from Fazakerley to Speke and the “detrimental effect” it would have on them.

He added one officer told him the trip “doesn’t take that long”. “The children’s voices are being brushed off, our questions on transport issue were just not answered,” he said.

The findings of the non-statutory consultation will inform the council’s cabinet as to whether it should move towards a statutory discussion on the future of the schools.

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