As some of you are aware we received some excellent news at our meeting on Monday night that the council are looking into an Autism Specific School here in East Cheshire. We are still going ahead with looking into the “Free School” option but please see below a report from Julie Alexander who spoke to Lorraine Butcher on Tuesday night. We will keep you all posted as soon as we know more ourselves.
To SPACE Members From Julie Alexander, Trustee
As promised I would like to report back to you the conversation which I had with Lorraine Butcher, the Director of Children’s Services for Cheshire East at last night’s (Tuesday 17th May) Director’s Report Briefing Session for School Governors in this County.
The issue of the Special Educational Needs Review came up as a matter of course and at this point I interjected and told Lorraine that we had had a SPACE meeting the evening before ( Monday 16th May) at which Nicola West – a Principal member of CASADT (Cheshire Autism Support and Development Team) had spoken and at which she had informed us that she had been speaking with Fintan Bradley – Services Manager, Improvement & Achievement for Cheshire East – only that afternoon about the Council’s plan to provide an Autism Specific School in Cheshire East. We at SPACE had not heard anything about this plan at all – I therefore informed all colleagues at the SPACE meeting that I would ask Lorraine to confirm this proposal at the Director’s Briefing Session the following evening.
Lorraine confirmed that the council was going to make recommendations to the Council’s Cabinet that as a result of the review it was apparent that a school was needed in the East to provide for those children with Autistic Spectrum Condition who could not cope at mainstream level. Lorraine confirmed that this issue was a priority for the Council along with 2 others – Residential Care and Pupil Referral Units (PRU) .They would be advising Cabinet for the need of such a school as there are only 4 specialist schools in the East – none of which are Autism Specific. Lorraine acknowledged that parental views had confirmed the need for this school and the desperation many feel as there is no such option for their child in the East.
Lorraine stated that the plan was at early stages. The Council will be looking to converting an already existing building to accommodate the needs of an ASC specific school ( there are presently 3 redundant primary school sites in the County) – a new build was out of the question due to cost and the time it would take. The council would need to consider the geography of the County ( the view is that the school needs to be central of county ) and where the school should be placed in relation to greatest need and fairness of access. Headteachers will be consulted and other agencies about the planned school – Lorraine therefore felt that a September 2012 opening date was ambitious. and that January 2013 was more likely but this is all to be decided – providing Cabinet approve the scheme. I asked how Lorraine felt Cabinet would view it – and she replied that she was very optimistic. I asked what was the timescale for Cabinet approval – and she said she hoped to find this out in the next few weeks and would let me know. I also asked the age range which the school would be targeted at – this again is to be decided – but I did underline the desperate need for Senior age group support. As I left the meeting I asked Lorraine to keep me informed of developments – which she promised she would and I also stated that I would be updating yourself about this progress. I also expressed to Lorraine that parents would be very pleased to hear the news and anxious for realisation at earliest point.