Council set to close special needs school

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019 10:37pm

By Saul Cooke-Black - Local Democracy Reporter

Monmouthshire County Council looks set to move ahead with the closure of a special needs school, despite significant opposition.

The proposed closure of Mounton House School, near Chepstow, was opposed by 88 per cent of people who responded to a public consultation, while around 2,300 signed a petition against the plans.

Teachers, parents, Chepstow Town Council and many residents spoke out against the plans.

But council bosses have recommended the ruling cabinet goes ahead with the closure at a special meeting next Wednesday, September 18.

The school – which caters for boys aged 11-16 with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties – would close at the end of August next year.

A council report says 10 pupils from Years 8 to 11 would be affected by the closure, while redundancies may also be made.

Six Key Stage 3 pupils would be placed in “appropriate specialist provision”, following a review involving children, parents and authorities.

The council’s Pupil Referral Unit will meet the needs of the five Key Stage 4 pupils until they complete their courses.

Monmouthshire council says the needs of children in the county are becoming increasingly complex and that provision offering greater flexibility is needed.

The school has been in existence since 1970, when it was set up to serve the wider Gwent area with a population of 600,000.

But today, serving a Monmouthshire population of 100,000, the council says “its scale and remit are no longer compatible with the needs of Monmouthshire”.

“Any decision to close a school is a difficult decision,” a council report says.
“In this instance and despite the response to the consultation exercise it is the right option to take at this time.”

Significant improvements have been made at the school in recent years, with it moving from a red to a yellow support category by Estyn.

But plans to widen provision at the school, so that it could cater for girls and pupils aged three to 19, were scrapped last year as costs were estimated at £6.4 million.

A council report says costs associated with the school are “prohibitive”.

Sixteen pupils currently attend the school, with eight from Monmouthshire, equating to a cost of £131,000 per placement for the local authority.

The council’s cabinet has been recommended to proceed with the closure and publish notices of its closure.

A report says the school’s future has been “unresolved for too long” and that deferring the closure would “prolong uncertainty and not provide clarity to the children, parents and families”.

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