Chartfield School planned closure July 2006
As Council proposes increased specialist teachers at Garratt Park Special School to meet the demand for inclusion
A new service will aim to help the borough's secondary schools respond to growing demand from parents of children with a statement of special needs for a mainstream education.
A team of up to six specialist teachers based at Garratt Park Special School would work with the increasing number of pupils coming into secondary education whose needs fall within the autistic spectrum (ASD) or have social, communication and language difficulties. The peripatetic team would work across all of Wandsworth's secondary schools.
At the same time Garratt Park itself would provide up to 32 extra places and would meet the needs of children with mild and moderate learning difficulties who have additional needs including physical and emotional vulnerability.
The proposals mean that one special school, Chartfield, which caters mainly for children with a range of less complex needs, would close. More and more children who would previously have attended a school like Chartfield are now being educated successfully in a mainstream setting.
If the changes are approved Chartfield would close in July 2006. Each child's case would be carefully looked at with their parents to decide which new school they should attend. About 28 pupils would need to move to a new school.
Around half of pupils who would otherwise have gone to Chartfield are likely to go to mainstream secondaries where they would benefit from a full curriculum and the wider range of facilities available. They would also receive support from the specialist peripatetic teaching service.
The other half would go to Garratt Park.
Cabinet member for education Malcolm Grimston said the council had to weigh the concerns of parents with children already at Chartfield with the wider trend for parents not to choose a special school for their child:
"The council has to plan for the future. More and more parents want their child to go to a mainstream school. Chartfield currently has 78 pupils out of a potential school roll of 100. Of these only 59 are Wandsworth residents. It is clear fewer parents are choosing Chartfield for their child.
"This means that the school finds it difficult to deliver the full and exciting range of courses and IT facilities that local mainstream schools are now offering. Most of Chartfield's pupils are capable of taking a full clutch of GCSEs but each year the school's offer is constrained by the numbers of pupils on roll.
"The growing demand for inclusion does not mean the end for special schools - but in the future their role will inevitably focus on those children who are really the most needy.
"We also know that more children with ASD and language disorders will be in our secondary schools in the future and we need to plan now for the extra specialist support they will need.
"We are aware of the resistance there will be from Chartfield parents to the changes. In some cases this will be based on individual unfortunate experiences of mainstream schools. Of course barriers to successful inclusion still exist but it would be an irresponsible council that ducked these challenges when parental expectations generally are so high."
The school has been reluctant to admit children with more complex needs. This is a key requirement of the DfES Special Schools Working Group which has been examining the future of special schools.
Closing the school would not save the council money. The current level of funding would be needed to support the new peripatetic service, the additional places at Garratt Park and the new mainstream places.
If the Chartfield site were sold the receipts would be used to fund building improvements at other schools - particularly where these help to deliver enhanced facilities for children with special needs.
The proposed changes are part of the council's Planning for Inclusion initiative. They will be considered by the education overview and scrutiny committee on January 20 and the executive on January 26.
January 19, 2004