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PARENTS OUTRAGE: Special school pupils taught in old office block

PARENTS OUTRAGE: Special school pupils taught in old office block

Parents of pupils at Cedars Academy, Image: LDRS

Parents of children at a Gateshead special school have spoken of their anger about proposals to teach some pupils from a 19th century former office building.

Cedars Academy is an all-ages special school catering for the needs of a range of pupils, those with medical, sensory and physical needs, autism, emotional issues and communication difficulties.

The school, which is on Ivy Lane in Low Fell,  has asked Gateshead Council for permission to teach young people from an office building on Walker Terrace in Bensham.

But parents are against this, saying that pupils using the building don’t have access to outdoor space or proper kitchen facilities.

Deborah Robinson said: “They are sending 14 year-old special educational needs students to a college setting where there is no playtime – just an old office building

“There’s no playground for them. Their mental age is six or seven years old, so you’re trying to put a six or seven year-old in college.

“They wouldn’t do that at Whickham Comp, ‘ah, we’re a bit full so let’s buy an old office block’.”

Wendy Morris said that the changes weren’t properly communicated with children knowing more about them than parents.

She said: “There’s a lodge on the grounds [of the main school] that’s not being used, why can’t they use that?

“They say they want to ‘promote independence through travel’ how did they do that up to this year?”

Ken Thompson raised fears about the lack of outdoor space available for youngsters attending the new premises.

Mr Thompson’s wife, Margaret, added:  “The children are on EHCP’s, if their needs can’t be met what are they going to do?

“Our kids are pupils in a school, once they have that ‘college’ tag they’re ‘students’ and don’t have to have a playground.”

Linsey Finnegan raised fears that the nearby Gateshead High Street isn’t a safe place for vulnerable youngsters.

She said: “Could you imagine if they got out  to the High Street? They’re vulnerable, my child is visually impaired.”

Lorraine Welsh said the changes mean she has had to pull her 15 year-old daughter out of the school.

She added : “My daughter Hope attended Cedars for seven years. She has autism, chronic lung disease, hydrocephalus, glaucoma, is visually impaired and is peg fed.

“I decided to change her school after visiting Walker Terrace and having two meetings with members of staff from Cedars.

“This was not a decision I wanted to make, Hope was really happy at Cedars, but Walker Terrace was not suitable for her needs at all.

“I was told Hope would be based downstairs as there is no lift, ridiculous for a special needs school and because she is visually impaired the stairs are a problem.

“The emphasis was entirely placed on independence and being ‘age appropriate’ which is great but certainly not suitable for all special needs children.”

In a joint statement Gill Morton, Chair of Governors and Gordon Neale (OBE) chair of trustees said the school has “opened a dialogue” with parents in a bid to resolve the issues raised.

They said:  “We understand and recognise parents’ concern about our proposed Key Stage 4 provision.

“We have opened a dialogue with parents and stakeholders and begun a process to address the issues raised.

“This will enable us to shape our provision to best suit the needs of all students across the Academy. Our parent voice is important to us and we are committed to working together to ensure a successful resolution.”

Words: Herbert Soden, Local Democracy Reporter

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