UPDATED: School that touched the hearts of Wirral Globe readers is facing closure

Wirral Globe: Flashback: Cherie Blair visited the school in 2004 and said her problems seemed as nothing in comparison to Lyndale parents Flashback: Cherie Blair visited the school in 2004 and said her problems seemed as nothing in comparison to Lyndale parents

A special needs school which touched the hearts of Globe readers in a massive fund-raising campaign is facing closure.

Our readers raised more than £80,000 to provide the Lyndale School in Eastham with a sensory garden and other features designed to improve the life of its profoundly disabled youngsters.

Today Wirral Council announced it is "minded" to shut it down.

Julia Hassall, Wirral’s director of children’s services, said: "Last week, I met the headteacher of Lyndale School, and its chair and vice-chair of governors.

"I informed them that, with regret, we are minded to ask cabinet in January for permission to consult on the closure of the school.

"Closing a school is always distressing, and we would only put this forward if we felt we had explored all other options.

"I would like to emphasise that closure is not being considered because of standards at the school.

"Its most recent Ofsted inspection described it as well led and managed, and said that the atmosphere was extremely positive.

"The reasons why we have come to this position are that there has been a falling roll at the school over the last seven years, and recent changes to the government funding mechanism means the financial viability of the school is at risk.

"We will consult and work with parents and families at all stages of the process, to ensure that the outcome of any decision made, will be carefully managed with all those concerned."

Ms Hassall said that based on current projections, the school is expected to see a funding shortfall of £70,000 for 2014/15 which may increase in future years.

In 2003, Wirral Globe readers took Lyndale to their hearts.

Led by this newspaper, an appeal was launched to provide the children with a sensory garden.

The campaign really struck a chord and an astonishing £80,000 flooded in - in under 18 months.

It seemed almost everyone wanted to become involved.

Local bands staged a "Rocking for Lyndale" concert attended by the Mayor of Wirral, Patricia Williams, school children held sponsored silences, an elderly pensioner sent us a postal order for £10.

Literally thousands of our readers individually donated sums ranging from five to several hundred pounds, Children in Need gave the school a cheque for £25,000, and the Globe's American parent company Gannett gave £15,000 from its charitable foundation.

Cherie Blair praised the fundraising efforts after she visited Lyndale and saw plans for the sensory garden in February, 2004.

The then-Prime Minister's wife spent an hour at the school touring the building with head teacher Pat Stewart - awarded an OBE for services to special needs education in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 1999.

Mrs Blair watched as staff conducted physiotherapy and hydrotherapy sessions in the soft play area and pool before helping youngsters decorate a gingerbread man.

She was treated to a wheelchair dancing display in the hall and then accepted gifts from the children including cards, flowers and a specially-made book for her son Leo.

Later she had a special word for Globe readers: "People have made a wonderful effort to raise funds for this project. It's so nice to see newspapers - especially local newspapers - really doing something for the community.

"It's been marvellous to see the children here reaching their full potential. I've seen kids in the hydrotherapy pool floating free in a way that they don't otherwise get the chance.

"To be honest, when I think of what I have to do - and I think of what some of the mothers I have met here do, and some of the women here have two children in this school - my problems are nothing in comparison."

In 2010 Lyndale was crowned winner of the Epilepsy Action education award for its work in supporting pupils with the condition. The school was presented with its "Edward" award by Wirral South MP Alison McGovern.

That same year, headteacher Mrs Stewart explained that even though the Globe campaign had "offcially" come to an end some five years ago, friends and supporters made during its run kept the money flooding in.

So much so, in fact, that the school was able to build a musical garden for the children.

Mrs Stewart said at the time: "The musical garden is a direct result of the generosity of all those people.

"The Globe's readers have made an massive impact on this school and helped improve the lives of so many children, and we are still so grateful for their continued support."

Globe editor Leigh Marles was invited to open the new garden feature, and said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony: "It seems the Lyndale School and the work done by its teachers, support staff and volunteers to help so many children has earned a very special place in the hearts of Wirral people."

Wirral Council leader councillor Phil Davies said today the decision to consult on closure centered around the Coalition Government's changes to funding criteria.

He said: “Lyndale is a fantastic school and does an absolutely fantastic job for the kids that it looks after who have got profound multiple disabilities.

“The problem that we have got is not to do with the standards of the teaching or anything to do with education.

"They have had a pretty consistent falling roll, and the problem we have got is one of viability.

"I think they are down to 24 children on the roll and there are 40 places. There is a big funding shortfall of £70,000 next year.”

Councillor Davies said changes to Government funding means that from next year, money will be allocated for each child, rather than for the number of places a school has.

“That is going to be a big issue,” he said.

“It is very sad but given the sort of shortfall we are looking at, there is just a big question mark about its ongoing viability.

“We will carry out consultation properly in January with parents, staff, families and the wider community because people need to be able to understand the issues, and I fully support that.

“It is with a heavy heart that we do this, but it is about the viability of the school going forward.”

Conservative group opposition leader Cllr Jeff Green said: "This is indeed a very sad day.

"Lyndale is a highly-valued, unique and safe place for our most vulnerable children.

"The council under Labour has floated any number of tentative 'fishing expeditions' to test the waters for closing down Lyndale over the last five years or so.

"Each time they've backed away from it.

"I sincerely hope they back away from it again now."

Eastham ward councillor Phil Gilchrist, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: "When I was told about this idea I asked  ‘Where is the alternative, and how can you guarantee that it will be the same or better?’

"This cannot be about numbers or accounts, but about quality of service.

"Each child is unique. Every child there needs the care that the school provides, generous and unstinting work I have seen first hand over the years.

"It is only a few months since the ward councillors visited the school with the chief executive to see this first-hand.

"The parents must be entirely satisfied that the needs of their children can be fully met. There must be no upheaval and disruption."

Wirral South MP Alison McGovern said: "I have seen a list of options from the council, and I think Wirral needs to genuinely and properly assess all of them before leaping to the conclusion that closure is the only one.

"The children at Lyndale School have complex and highly-important needs, so I will be supporting their parents to make sure these are all understood in detail, before any decision is reached.

"We must make sure we have the highest possible standards of education for the children at Lyndale."

The mum of a profoundly ill child at the school telephoned the Globe today.

Asking not to be named, she said: "My child absolutely relies upon Lyndale.

"Almost every child at the school also attends Claire House Hospice.

"There is nowhere like Lyndale in Wirral, or anywhere else as far as I know.

"I am so determined we will not lose it.

"It's all about cutting costs. No one has said the school is failing in any way - they wouldn't dare.

"It's a familiar story - the council knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing."

Globe readers who donated so generously to help the Lyndale children might agree.

 

Comments (19)

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2:50pm Thu 12 Dec 13

Cheesy Peas says...

70k shortfall? Is that all?

Can we take another look at the WBC directors' salaries again please?

And the 48k "hurt feelings" bunce?

And the million pound stairway?

And the new decor for the CX?

And the trips to China which now suddenly don't look like such a good investment?

Tell me - why DO we council tax? Because it's certainly not for the benefit of Wirral.
70k shortfall? Is that all? Can we take another look at the WBC directors' salaries again please? And the 48k "hurt feelings" bunce? And the million pound stairway? And the new decor for the CX? And the trips to China which now suddenly don't look like such a good investment? Tell me - why DO we council tax? Because it's certainly not for the benefit of Wirral. Cheesy Peas

3:26pm Thu 12 Dec 13

JohnON says...

When will this council get into their thick collective skulls that caring for vulnerable people doesn't necessarily have to equate to making a profit out of them.

I'm increasingly ashamed and embarrassed to tell anyone I'm from the Wirral.
When will this council get into their thick collective skulls that caring for vulnerable people doesn't necessarily have to equate to making a profit out of them. I'm increasingly ashamed and embarrassed to tell anyone I'm from the Wirral. JohnON

6:35pm Thu 12 Dec 13

bigfoot says...

Why is it when economies/savings have to be made,it is always the most vulnerable who are affected? Yet the golf courses etc. are left alone-I think I may know the answer to my own question!
Why is it when economies/savings have to be made,it is always the most vulnerable who are affected? Yet the golf courses etc. are left alone-I think I may know the answer to my own question! bigfoot

7:33pm Thu 12 Dec 13

Llamedos 1 says...

Yet again these muppets are attacking the most vulnerable in our borough and incidentally blaming central government as they have done time and time again.
We, the electorate, need to get shut of the existing bunch af political bufoons and replace them with decent honest people who have no political orientation.
In a radio interview with Roger Phillips last week Davies and Burgess attempted to justify an expenditure of £850,000 on making the town hall accessible to disabled employees but a recent FOI requesting exactly how many disabled employeses work at the town was all bet refused....so much for transparency.
Yet again these muppets are attacking the most vulnerable in our borough and incidentally blaming central government as they have done time and time again. We, the electorate, need to get shut of the existing bunch af political bufoons and replace them with decent honest people who have no political orientation. In a radio interview with Roger Phillips last week Davies and Burgess attempted to justify an expenditure of £850,000 on making the town hall accessible to disabled employees but a recent FOI requesting exactly how many disabled employeses work at the town was all bet refused....so much for transparency. Llamedos 1

10:20am Fri 13 Dec 13

RL 1952 says...

Before WBC again attacks the vulnerable how about looking at salaries of 3 additional super directors who are in addition to directors who were already in place - duplication and hypocracy spring to mind - and what about the wasteful outlay on financing 66 councillors who realistically do not represent value for money in the current economic climate.

Come on WBC these double standards are ridiculous, come on Cllr Davies prove you are not just a glove puppet do something positive to protect the vulnerable. or is just too easy to attack the defenceless??????
Before WBC again attacks the vulnerable how about looking at salaries of 3 additional super directors who are in addition to directors who were already in place - duplication and hypocracy spring to mind - and what about the wasteful outlay on financing 66 councillors who realistically do not represent value for money in the current economic climate. Come on WBC these double standards are ridiculous, come on Cllr Davies prove you are not just a glove puppet do something positive to protect the vulnerable. or is just too easy to attack the defenceless?????? RL 1952

12:05pm Fri 13 Dec 13

Cheesy Peas says...

Have they tracked down all the phantom mobile phone users yet?

Excellent comment by @bigfoot regarding golf courses. No doubt Davies will trot out his "doing nothing is not an option" line when it comes to his precious golf resort that, last time I looked, no one voted for either.

It's like Blazing Saddles in Brighton Street - plenty of cowboys and lots of hot air.
Have they tracked down all the phantom mobile phone users yet? Excellent comment by @bigfoot regarding golf courses. No doubt Davies will trot out his "doing nothing is not an option" line when it comes to his precious golf resort that, last time I looked, no one voted for either. It's like Blazing Saddles in Brighton Street - plenty of cowboys and lots of hot air. Cheesy Peas

2:18pm Fri 13 Dec 13

ordinary personn says...

I agree with the above posters. My suggesstion is that Mr Burgess and his "super" (ha ha ha ha ha - that still makes me laugh, especially as I have yet to see any evidence or competence never mind "superness!") directors donate £20,000 each out of their exhorbitant salaries to meet the shortfall.
I agree with the above posters. My suggesstion is that Mr Burgess and his "super" (ha ha ha ha ha - that still makes me laugh, especially as I have yet to see any evidence or competence never mind "superness!") directors donate £20,000 each out of their exhorbitant salaries to meet the shortfall. ordinary personn

3:37pm Fri 13 Dec 13

Mojo68 says...

I have a child at The Lyndale School and believe me I will not take this lying down and neither will any of the other parents. When choosing a school for my child four years ago all of the professionals involved agreed that Lyndale was the best school in the area for his very specific needs, neither Stanley or Elleray Park were suitable. If our children were made to move to either of those schools, I would like to know how they propose to keep our highly vulnerable children safe, do they plan on segregating them?? Over my dead body!!!
I have a child at The Lyndale School and believe me I will not take this lying down and neither will any of the other parents. When choosing a school for my child four years ago all of the professionals involved agreed that Lyndale was the best school in the area for his very specific needs, neither Stanley or Elleray Park were suitable. If our children were made to move to either of those schools, I would like to know how they propose to keep our highly vulnerable children safe, do they plan on segregating them?? Over my dead body!!! Mojo68

7:20pm Fri 13 Dec 13

Llamedos 1 says...

Thats the spirit Mojo. The muppets have scrapped meals on wheels, closed Moreton ATC, removed transport from some of our most vulnerable residents and now propose the closeure of Lyndale and I believe thay have also refused to answer an FOI question requesting the number of disabled people they actually employ. The facts speak for themselves, they dont give a monkies about our vulnerable and disabled residents. I personally hope you win the battle and the ultimate war against these bufoons who couldnt give a toss, as long as they get their expenses, payouts and pensions"
Thats the spirit Mojo. The muppets have scrapped meals on wheels, closed Moreton ATC, removed transport from some of our most vulnerable residents and now propose the closeure of Lyndale and I believe thay have also refused to answer an FOI question requesting the number of disabled people they actually employ. The facts speak for themselves, they dont give a monkies about our vulnerable and disabled residents. I personally hope you win the battle and the ultimate war against these bufoons who couldnt give a toss, as long as they get their expenses, payouts and pensions" Llamedos 1

7:49pm Fri 13 Dec 13

Heycock says...

Seems a lifetime ago that, in the public "consultation" exercise, the majority of contributors specifically told WBC to leave vulnerable groups out of the proposed cutbacks. And still the "consultations" continue.....the latest being about continued provision of services to people with self-inflicted drug and drink problems. Vulnerable maybe but of their own choice. These children had no choice.
If the council were down to the last £1 were would they spend it? Not on the truly vulnerable, that's for sure.
Seems a lifetime ago that, in the public "consultation" exercise, the majority of contributors specifically told WBC to leave vulnerable groups out of the proposed cutbacks. And still the "consultations" continue.....the latest being about continued provision of services to people with self-inflicted drug and drink problems. Vulnerable maybe but of their own choice. These children had no choice. If the council were down to the last £1 were would they spend it? Not on the truly vulnerable, that's for sure. Heycock

4:15pm Sat 14 Dec 13

Mojo68 says...

Believe me when I say that we, the parents of children attending The Lyndale School, have more spirit than Smirnoff and Julia Hassall will find this out when she gets to meet us at the school next Thursday morning. She is submitting a report to the Cabinet in January requesting permission to consult on closure of the school, but said she would like to meet the parents and staff prior to the report being sent. I firmly believe that she believed that we would all be too busy to attend, given the time of year it is and the fact that the school breaks for Christmas the following day, well she needs to realise that we are never too busy to fight for our children and their rights!!!
Believe me when I say that we, the parents of children attending The Lyndale School, have more spirit than Smirnoff and Julia Hassall will find this out when she gets to meet us at the school next Thursday morning. She is submitting a report to the Cabinet in January requesting permission to consult on closure of the school, but said she would like to meet the parents and staff prior to the report being sent. I firmly believe that she believed that we would all be too busy to attend, given the time of year it is and the fact that the school breaks for Christmas the following day, well she needs to realise that we are never too busy to fight for our children and their rights!!! Mojo68

11:11am Sun 15 Dec 13

keef666 says...

£70,000 that must be three steps and a bit of a handrail on the Councils new staircase!
£70,000 that must be three steps and a bit of a handrail on the Councils new staircase! keef666

4:07pm Sun 15 Dec 13

Llamedos 1 says...

Mojo, good luck with the meeting and keep the sperits of all the parents up.
WBC deliberately holding public meetings at the most inconvenient times for the general public but the public are now catching up with their devious methods of holding so called consultation meetings so campaign all the parents to get there by hook or by crook.....again I wish you, the parents and children and the school itself all the best
Mojo, good luck with the meeting and keep the sperits of all the parents up. WBC deliberately holding public meetings at the most inconvenient times for the general public but the public are now catching up with their devious methods of holding so called consultation meetings so campaign all the parents to get there by hook or by crook.....again I wish you, the parents and children and the school itself all the best Llamedos 1

8:13pm Sun 15 Dec 13

healo36 says...

An online petition was started today by myself and in four hours have over 800 signatures. My daughter attends lyndale and we will fight with everything we have. Please sign at

you.38degrees.org.uk
/petitions/save-lynd
ale-special-school
An online petition was started today by myself and in four hours have over 800 signatures. My daughter attends lyndale and we will fight with everything we have. Please sign at you.38degrees.org.uk /petitions/save-lynd ale-special-school healo36

9:02pm Sun 15 Dec 13

healo36 says...

sorry wrong link above it
you.38degrees.org.uk
/petitions/keep-lynd
ale-special-school-o
pen
sorry wrong link above it you.38degrees.org.uk /petitions/keep-lynd ale-special-school-o pen healo36

10:42am Mon 16 Dec 13

Thepleb says...

In relation to the council budget £70,000 is a splash in the ocean only three weeks ago at a council meeting they located £100,000 just floating around maybe at the back of a draw somewhere this was subsequently put in the over bulging pot put aside for the precious Open golf shindig next year.
The problem we have is the main people who make the major decisions don't reside on the Wirral and have been brought in to make these heartless cuts.
66 councillors x £9,650 couldn't they find a saving here maybe?
Turkeys don't vote for Christmas .
In relation to the council budget £70,000 is a splash in the ocean only three weeks ago at a council meeting they located £100,000 just floating around maybe at the back of a draw somewhere this was subsequently put in the over bulging pot put aside for the precious Open golf shindig next year. The problem we have is the main people who make the major decisions don't reside on the Wirral and have been brought in to make these heartless cuts. 66 councillors x £9,650 couldn't they find a saving here maybe? Turkeys don't vote for Christmas . Thepleb

2:58pm Mon 16 Dec 13

Mojo68 says...

We have the backing of parents and staff and today I had clinic with my son's consultant and specialist Epilepsy nurse, both of those well respected healthcare professionals totally agreed that for our children, the best and most suitable school, is Lyndale and they have offered their full support to keep our precious school open. Roll on Thursday when we get to voice our opinions to WBC.
We have the backing of parents and staff and today I had clinic with my son's consultant and specialist Epilepsy nurse, both of those well respected healthcare professionals totally agreed that for our children, the best and most suitable school, is Lyndale and they have offered their full support to keep our precious school open. Roll on Thursday when we get to voice our opinions to WBC. Mojo68

10:54am Sun 22 Dec 13

Mojo68 says...

The meeting went ahead and I believe we got our points across very well indeed. The council's money wasting projects were mentioned and all Ms Hassall could do was nod her head, the fact that in one scheme pets seem to be considered more highly than our children. The fact that they had money lying unused which with a bit of common sense could be allocated to our school. They blame the falling numbers of pupils as being the main reason for this action but as we pointed out to her, the school has had the threat of closure hanging over it for years, so what parent would send their child there if they thought there was a good chance of it closing?? There were meetings a few years ago to discuss extending the schools age range from 2 to 19, at the meeting it was revealed that these plans were scrapped because the other schools in the area weren't interested.....why were they involved in the decision making, they don't cater for children with such a high level of disability as ours? Surely that's like asking Everton FC if they would like Liverpool FC to be extended and promoted and to be given extra funding!!! Claire House has done a report suggesting that in the coming years, due to increasing advancements within the medical profession, more children born with the high level of disability that our children have will survive and therefore the numbers requiring the specialist schooling that Lyndale provides will also increase. It was put to Julia Hassall that instead of closing the school, they make Lyndale a flagship school, age range 2 to 19 and promote the school. I am sure they will see the numbers start to rise within a short space of time.
The meeting went ahead and I believe we got our points across very well indeed. The council's money wasting projects were mentioned and all Ms Hassall could do was nod her head, the fact that in one scheme pets seem to be considered more highly than our children. The fact that they had money lying unused which with a bit of common sense could be allocated to our school. They blame the falling numbers of pupils as being the main reason for this action but as we pointed out to her, the school has had the threat of closure hanging over it for years, so what parent would send their child there if they thought there was a good chance of it closing?? There were meetings a few years ago to discuss extending the schools age range from 2 to 19, at the meeting it was revealed that these plans were scrapped because the other schools in the area weren't interested.....why were they involved in the decision making, they don't cater for children with such a high level of disability as ours? Surely that's like asking Everton FC if they would like Liverpool FC to be extended and promoted and to be given extra funding!!! Claire House has done a report suggesting that in the coming years, due to increasing advancements within the medical profession, more children born with the high level of disability that our children have will survive and therefore the numbers requiring the specialist schooling that Lyndale provides will also increase. It was put to Julia Hassall that instead of closing the school, they make Lyndale a flagship school, age range 2 to 19 and promote the school. I am sure they will see the numbers start to rise within a short space of time. Mojo68

11:01am Sun 22 Dec 13

Mojo68 says...

All the parents, grandparents and carers etc are now in the process of writing in person to David Cameron. It would be greatly appreciated if Wirral residents would also put pen to paper and strongly suggest that the recommendation to close Lyndale School is rejected.
All the parents, grandparents and carers etc are now in the process of writing in person to David Cameron. It would be greatly appreciated if Wirral residents would also put pen to paper and strongly suggest that the recommendation to close Lyndale School is rejected. Mojo68

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