Unit to close

A UNIT for pupils with moderate learning difficulties is to close after a senior councillor rubber stamped proposals.

Hartlepool Borough Council say there is no longer any demand for the facility at Grange Primary School, in town, and there are no children on the waiting list.

Senior officers say there is also enough support in other schools around town to cater for those children with moderate learning difficulties so there is no need for them to be placed at Grange any longer.

The current unit is a support base for those pupils aged between seven and 11.

But the funding will now be allocated on the basis of “individual pupil need” to primary schools across the town and officers say it will help keep youngsters with their classmates.

Consultation results showed overwhelming support for the plans and there will be no staff redundancies as a result of the changes.

The decision was taken by independent councillor Cath Hill, portfolio holder for children’s and community services.

Coun Hill was told the number of places requested within the support base has “declined steadily” over the last few years.

Zoe Westley, head of social and education inclusion, said: “Formal closure of the support base supports the inclusion of pupils with moderate learning difficulties in their local schools.

“By diverting the funding to the local authority individual pupil budget for special educational needs the money will be retained to support vulnerable pupils.”

Coun Hill said: “I am happy to agree the recommendations to formalise the closure.”

In November last year, Coun Hill backed plans for a formal consultation on the closure of the facility and meetings were held at Grange Primary School which involved teaching and support staff, the governing body, parents and the public.

People were offered two options of retain the current service or close it and all nine of the responses were in favour of it being discontinued.

Similar units have also been closed at Owton Primary School and Golden Flatts Primary School in recent years.

The statutory notices will now be published and a further report will go back in June.