A few days have passed since my last post, and I realise that while I have expounded in great detail (!) our reasons for opposing the proposal put forward by the council and the LEA (Education Service), I have given scant attention to the alternative proposal put forward by the governing body at the Infants, and also reiterated by the Ward Councillors in their submission to the formal consultation in January.
As I have laid out in previous posts, there are numerous reasons why the Infant school site should not be vacated and used for another school. Obviously, we all know the Council’s plan is to create Newport’s only specialist ASD school on that site.
In all our meetings, in every conversation I or other governors have had, we have not met a single sane person who has said they don’t want children with ASD educated on the Gaer schools’ site. On the contrary, we would actively welcome ASD children and their parents to our school – if we can be one school, rather than two.
And even if this proposal does go ahead, we as parents and the community need to ensure that we make those families feel welcome. We would not like the fact that we lost our school for no clear or legitimate reasons, but it would not be their fault.
That said, I do oppose the proposal to put an ASD school at the infant site, as I do not believe there are legitimate grounds for displacing the Gaer infant children, and removing so many spaces from the junior children.
Our proposal, one we have repeatedly put to the Council/LEA, is very simple:
- Amalgamate the Gaer schools on a split-site (educational benefits)
- Keep all the current facilities for Gaer use and
- Use the £3.8m for ASD education to develop the empty annexe at the Infant site into another primary age ASD unit in Newport, part of the amalgamated Gaer school, with full shared access of all the wonderful facilities.
- This way, the primary-aged pupils with ASD currently being forced to leave the city every day for their education, will now be able to access education close to home, in their own city.
- This will also slash the £1.1m (or thereabouts) annual transportation budget, taking them to schools far away.
- Brynglas ASD unit can stay where it is, so no disruption to their lives and education, and they will be able to integrate and be included with Bro Teyrnon (if they move to Brynglas in September).
- Pupils aged 11-16/19 who the Council had intended to educate on the Gaer site will have to have another solution found for them. Perhaps some of the £3.8m can be spent on providing a unit attached to one of the comprehensive schools, to facilitate their inclusion/integration? After all, they cannot be included/integrated with the Gaer primary-aged kids as they are a different age and educational level. What were the Council planning to do to facilitate their inclusion/integration possibilities at the Gaer? Transportation at least 2 miles to Bassaleg or Duffryn? Another regular transportation budget?
In normal life, if you want something – have even promised someone something – which you later find out you cannot afford, you have 2 options. 1 is to try to find the money, if this is possible; the 2nd is to find an alternative solution, which may not be identical to what you had initially hoped for, but nevertheless provides towards that thing you want.
What you cannot do is try to force someone else to pay for it for you, with no benefit to them whatsoever.
This is what is happening on the Gaer. The LEA/Council have made a very well-meaning and good-intentioned promise to provide an ASD school in Newport, but have not got the money to pay for it. So they have had to try to find a building they can use to fulfill their promise. Ours has been chosen.
They have tried to use the issue of current surplus as the excuse to move us onto 1 site, but their own figures blow that argument out of the water. Over 90% full in less than 5 years does not a ‘surplus problem’ make!
The sad fact is, they have made a promise that they cannot keep without depriving other kids of their much loved, extensively developed and used schools. This is too unfair. In future years, maybe they will have the money to build a new school for ASD education, for the whole age-range they intend, but while they have not got the money, they must find an alternative solution:
They need to cancel this Statutory Notice and start again with a proposal, such as the one stated above, that does not remove from some children in order to give to others, however much the latter may need and deserve that gift.
Children in Newport with ASD, and their families, deserve an excellent education and environment in which to learn. So do Gaer children. Let’s share the environment that we have at the Gaer, for the good of Gaer children and children with ASD in a new unit in the school. This is the best, and only, solution.
Let’s champion it together, folks.