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Concerned teachers continue fight to save under-threat school service

PRU cuts The Grove campaigners outside county hall

Published at 5:33pm 28th January 2019.

Staff at North Yorkshire's under-threat Pupil Referral Service are continuing to call for a delay to county council cuts. 

  • North Yorkshire County Council is changing its provision for young people with special needs
  • It means Pupil Referral Units like The Grove Academy in Harrogate, along with North Yorkshire's other PRUs, face a budget cut 
  • They teach students who've been excluded from mainstream schools
  • Teachers and parents of current pupils are campaigning against the cuts 
  • Last week they held a meeting to lobby county councillors 
  • Councillors will make a final decision on the budget cuts in February 

Earlier this month members of North Yorkshire County Council's Executive voted unanimously to move forward the plans to change the way it funds provision for pupils at risk of school exclusion. 

North Yorkshire County Council says the new proposed system will reduce the number of young people who're being excluded from mainstream education.

It also needs to make savings of around £5.5m

pru pettion
Part of the 'Save the PRS' petition which was handed to councillors last month

Last week staff and parents of current pupils invited county councillors to a meeting to explain their concerns.

A handful of councillors showed up to hear representations from the 'Save the Pupil Referral Service' campaign. 

It's chair, and teacher at The Grove Academy in Harrogate, Alex Boyce told the meeting: 

"If this proposal is approved it will remove the safety net that is vital for our most vulnerable children and there is virtually nothing of substance to fill the gap.

"Many of these children have special needs, many are at risk and many can be led astray. Quite simply, these are the most needy, most challenging children in North Yorkshire.

"We worry that a growing number of them will be left at home or on the streets and that the county will face serious safeguarding issues as a result.

"Without proper funding, North Yorkshire’s PRUs could end up becoming ‘pathways to prison’ like poor PRUs across the country. Indeed, in the long term this proposal will prove very costly."

Alex Boyce at PRU meeting
Alex Boyce speaking to councillors at last week's meeting

After a public consultation, the council has decided to delay its plans.

Implementation of the new model has been put back to September 2020 rather than the original timescale of 2019. The council maintains the new model will put them in line with national average.

But campaigners say the cuts have not been reduced, only split into two phases. 

Alex added: 

"Our campaign is appealing for a full delay of 1 year to the cuts.

"This would allow for a second consultation to look at the problems at a district level.

"The main drivers behind the rise in exclusions still need to be addressed and more conversations need to be had with school leaders but a rushed, blanket proposal affecting all PRUs is not the right solution."

PRU headteachers, union representatives and parents then spoke at the meeting, along with headteachers from Nidderdale High and Harrogate Grammar.

Speaking earlier this month, Cllr Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Education and Skills said:

"Our primary concern is to reduce school exclusions because evidence shows that children and young people who are permanently excluded suffer in terms of educational outcomes and life chances.

"So wherever possible we believe they should remain within mainstream education, in their local school with the right support and curriculum to meet their needs.

“Permanent exclusions have risen significantly, despite our investment in the pupil referral service of over £4.7m each year. The present system is not working and so we have agreed that schools, the county council and the pupil referral service work together to agree a new model of provision which is more flexible to meet the needs of children and young people locally." 

Councillors are due to make a final decision at a meeting on February 20th. 

 

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