York & North Yorkshire

Harrogate Grove Academy staff strike over closure fears

Picket line at school
Image caption Unions claim the Harrogate school could close by Christmas

Staff at a school for pupils excluded from mainstream education have gone on strike over fears it could close.

The privately-run Grove Academy in Harrogate is one of five specialist pupil referral units (PRU) in North Yorkshire.

Unions claim a cut of more than 50% to its funding meant the school was "now facing closure by Christmas".

North Yorkshire County Council said it was working on "new models of alternative provision".

The Grove's head teacher John Warren, said taking strike action was a "difficult decision" for staff at the academy but that that they had "been forced to take such a drastic step to get their voice heard".

"Staff, parents and other professionals are deeply concerned at the impact of these cuts and fear Harrogate will be left with a black hole of alternative provision for the most needy children if the Grove is unable to continue," he added.

The school, which has 54 pupils, was rated outstanding in its last Ofsted report.

According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the funding changes are part of a move by the authority to claw back a £5.5m overspend in the high needs sector which will see funds to PRUs slashed, with a portion redirected to mainstream schools tasked with preventing exclusions of students in the first place.

Jane Le Sage, the county council's director of inclusion, said a new plan to support excluded children would be introduced in September 2020.

"We recognise the negative impact of exclusion on educational attainment, life chances and increased vulnerability of young people," she said.

"We remain committed to reducing the numbers of permanent exclusions across the county by ensuring schools have access to high quality, alternative provision for young people, who will benefit from a more personalised curriculum and higher levels of support."

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