Mid Wales

Fears over Powys education units closure proposals

Ysgol Golwg y Cwm Image copyright Powys council
Image caption Two units would close at Ysgol Golwg y Cwm

Protest groups have criticised a council's move to close specialist units for children with additional learning needs in Powys.

Powys council proposes to close 16 units and four pre-school assessment centres at primary schools in the county.

The council claimed the move would better integrate children into mainstream schooling.

But the plan's opponents claimed it was a cost-cutting measure.

The new structure will be implemented on 31 August if it is approved by councillors.

The council proposes closing the units and replacing them with travelling teachers which will give a "greater sense of inclusion within mainstream settings" and provide "enhanced opportunities" to meet the needs of learners "in mainstream classes in their local communities".

The pre-school assessment units are based at Cefnllys school in Llandrindod Wells, Llanfaes school in Brecon, Golwg y Cwm school in Ystradgynlais, and Maesyrhandir school, Newtown.

Lisa Rapado has two children with autism and has launched a Facebook page - Hands Off Our Specialist Units Powys - to enable parents in the county to oppose the plans.

She said: "The units provide dedicated classes for children with conditions including autism which allows them to attend to take part in school activities as well as other mainstream lessons.

"But when children can't cope they are safely taken care of by staff at the units.

"What will happen when a child has a meltdown in a mainstream setting which won't have the same facilities as the existing units?

"These proposals will result in more school exclusions with more children having to be taught at home."

'Better service'

The proposals are also opposed by the Powys Uncut campaign, which has more than 650 Facebook members and disagrees with Powys council's plans to save £20m in the next financial year and £40m in the next three years.

Mary Compton, of Powys Uncut, said: "These units are doing a good job and these proposals are about savings and not providing a better service."

A Powys council spokesman said: "The council is proposing changing the way it provides education for children between the ages of three and 11 with ALN (additional learning needs).

"The proposals have been developed following the Estyn inspection of the council in 2011 and its follow up visit in 2012 which found 'important shortcomings' in our existing ALN provision.

"Anyone wishing to comment on the proposals has until 5pm on Monday 17 March to do so."

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