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Cuts to Pupil Referral Units APPROVED

Cuts to Pupil Referral Units APPROVED

Published at 12:59pm 20th February 2019. (Updated at 12:46pm 21st February 2019)

Budget cuts to North Yorkshire's Pupil Referral Units have been approved

At a meeting this morning, North Yorkshire County Council councillors have voted to approve plans to cut one of the council's educational budgets, its High Needs Budget.

It means a reduction in funding to the county's Pupil Referral Service

There are a number of Pupil Referral Units across North Yorkshire - where young people who have been excluded from mainstream schools are taught.

These units now face a funding cut of £2.7m.

The Grove Academy in Harrogate will be affected and is due to lose two thirds of its budget by 2020. 

PRU council meeting
Today's meeting at County Hall in Northallerton

At this morning's meeting calls by Labour and Lib Dem groups to delay the move were voted down. 

Speaking after the meeting at County Hall in Northallerton, John Warren, Principal at The Grove Academy, said he was "very disappointed". He says the school can stay open until September, but its future is uncertain. 

John told Stray FM: 

"We cannot find a way under the current model that we can stay open. 

"I don't know what the future holds at this point." 

John and several other representative from a campaign to save the county's Pupil Referral Service spoke during the full meeting of the county council. 

North Yorkshire County Council maintains its proposed new model will reduce the number of students who are expelled from mainstream education. 

However parents and ex-pupils of The Grove Academy describe the funding cut as "devastating" and argue there will always be children who cannot be taught in mainstream schools.

Natalie Astwood's daughter is a pupil at The Grove. 

Speaking after today's meeting Natalie said: 

"The council don't appear to be listening

"My daughter only had 5% attendance in mainstream school last year. The PRU are trying to reengage her in education. The staff at the PRU are experts in dealing with children that cannot function in a mainstream environment. 

"If the PRU closes down my daughter will receive no education, no qualifications and will have reduced life chances." 

Amy Collins, who's an ex-pupil of The Grove Academy said:

"It's disheartening that they don't understand what pupils like myself had to go through.

"I feel putting them back in mainstream schools and not giving them that support is going to ruin the education system, not just for them but for the students who want to go there to learn and study. It's also going to put a strain on teachers, police and the mental health services."

Karen Carberry, an organiser for the National Education Union said:

"My concerns are around safeguarding and what will happen next year to the children that will be missing from education because the PRUs wont exist anymore. 

"I'm frightened for the future of young people in North Yorkshire."

PRU council meeting
The Grove's Alex Boyce, parent Natalie Astwood and Karen Carberry after today's council meeting

Campaigners say they're also concerned about the way in which the council carried out its public consultation about the proposals. 

As a result, earlier this month the campaign launched a legal challenge against the cuts.

Whilst councillors did not go into details about this challenge at today's meeting for legal reasons, Councillor Patrick Mulligan said they were "confident in the processes" of the consultation. 

Today's decision means North Yorkshire County Council's new Pupil Referral Service model will be implemented by September 2020. 

The council says the new proposed system will reduce the number of young people who're being excluded.

It also needs to make savings of around £5.5m.

Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Education and Skills said: 

"We've been spending quite a bit of money within the pupil referral service and we don't feel it's working due to exclusion rates going up.

"So we're going to try a different model where we're going to create alternative provision within mainstream schools. 

"We feel in the long run it's going to decrease exclusion rates and be better for our children."

"No one disputes that the PRUs offer a good or outstanding service. Our problem is that model isn't working.

"We're in very difficult circumstances as a local authority. We're facing financial challenges year in, year out and it's getting very difficult to find areas where we can find savings.

"We don't want to make these decisions but we have to make them. We have to make difficult decisions to protect the future of our services."