Published: 09/12/2009 00:00 - Updated: 30/12/2009 15:27

Schools' merger will safeguard special needs

Written byBY ELLEN FRAMPTON

Hitchmead school will close by the end of August 2010 after the council agreed to create a new Area Special School.

The Sunnyside site will house a new Area Special SchoolCentral Bedfordshire Council's executive committee considered a report which detailed the responses to a consultation which allowed parents, teachers and other interested partners to tell the council what they thought would secure the best future for Hitchmead and Sunnyside schools.

Almost three quarters of respondents said they felt a merger of the two schools was the best way to protect and improve Special Educational Needs schooling in the Biggleswade area making it more effective and efficient.

It was agreed that Hitchmead would cease teaching on August 31, 2010 and a new school, situated on the current Sunnyside site, would be used by children with moderate and severe learning difficulties from September 1.

Now statutory notices announcing the proposed merger will be issued and a further six week consultation will take place.

Critics had raised concerns that it could be difficult to combine pupils with Moderate Learning Difficulties and Severe Learning Difficulties, as they have substantially different educational needs.

Cllr Anita Lewis, portfolio holder for children's services at Central Bedfordshire Council said: "We have worked very hard to make sure that anyone who has an opinion about the future of Hitchmead and Sunnyside Schools had the chance to get their voice heard.

"We have looked at all the comments sent to us and I am pleased the executive have voted to approve a merger. This is what the majority of respondents wanted and matches the council's priority to educate, protect and provide opportunities for children and young people.

"The real work starts now with parents, teachers and governors to plan a way ahead to ensure the merger process is managed smoothly and efficiently."
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