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Bleak future for Grove Academy after Tories reject plan to delay cuts

February 22, 2019 10:49 AM

The future looks bleak for Harrogate's Pupil Referral Unit after North Yorkshire County Councillors rejected a Lib Dem budget amendment that would have delayed devastating cuts.

Harrogate's Grove Academy has been rated outstanding at its last three inspections. The staff there do a fantastic job, providing a high quality education for pupils who, for a variety of reasons, have been excluded from mainstream education. But this excellent facility is now facing closure because of cuts waved through by Conservative led NYCC.

The problem is that for too long they have been asked to provide a top class service with a budget that simply does not match.

The number of children who need specialist support is ever increasing and it's fair to say that the County Council is not getting sufficient Government funding to meet this demand. The Harrogate & Knaresborough Lib Dems support the drive to reduce exclusions from schools and to work with those at risk of exclusion by looking at different approaches within schools. But we cannot support the pace at which the Council now plans to introduce these funding changes.

To implement these cuts so quickly is unfair and impractical. It is likely to have a devastating impact on the Grove Academy which now faces the genuine prospect of closure. But it did not need to happen this way.

Demand Better Education

Lib Dem Cllr Geoff Webber's amendment to the budget would have delayed these cuts. This would have allowed time for the services to be reorganised to adapt to the changes in funding. That way there could have been continuity for those most vulnerable students who rely on these services.

Addressing the Council meeting, Cllr Webber said:

"It is simply not possible to re-organise in such a way as to save the expertise and facilities developed over past years when they face funding cuts starting in 2 months time. There simply hasn't been sufficient notice for the PRUs to adapt and other Alternative Provision does not yet exist. The Government itself has said that we should not rely on the free market to provide these alternative facilities and that high quality alternative provision needs skilful and professional development. The PRUs fully appreciate our ongoing funding problems and wish to work collaboratively to ensure that there is no break in high quality provision.

I would also remind colleagues that the consultation carried out before Christmas resulted in a 60% 'Disagree or Strongly Disagree' return on the current proposals. It seems strange to me that we can march off the Brexit cliff into the abyss on the basis of a 52% vote 'For' and then ignore a 60% vote 'Against'.

I ask colleagues - no, I beg colleagues - to support this amendment to ensure an orderly transition from an excellent but unaffordable system to one which retains the essential provision that we need but that can be contained within future budget provision."

Sadly the amendment was rejected by every single one of the Conservative Councillors who dominate NYCC. The future is looking bleak for the Grove Academy and it is the most vulnerable students in our area who will suffer the most.