A HEART-wrenching plea from the parent of a severely disabled child failed to change politicians' minds this evening as Wirral Council’s ruling cabinet gave the go-ahead to consult on the closure of a special needs school.
Wirral Council dropped a bombshell in December when it announced it was to begin closure procedures at Lyndale School after a predicted “budget shortfall” of £72,000.
Tonight, cabinet agreed to start a 12-week consultation on the future of the school.
Dawn Hughes addressed the cabinet on behalf of parents and explained how her 11-year-old daughter relies heavily on the excellent care and support given by staff and governors at the Eastham school.
She said it would take her longer than the five minutes allowed to fully explain all of the ways that the school fulfils the needs of not only her daughter, but all 24 children who currently attend Lyndale.
“Many people see our children just sitting there with no sense of what happens around them but I know when Ellie looks at me with a twinkle in her eye that she wants to play.
“I ask you to put yourselves in their shoes for one minute.
“Imagine being completely reliant on others. Imagine going to a strange place where you know no one and no one understands you when you are trying to tell them how you feel.
“I ask you not as councillors but as parents, grandparents and decent human beings please do not close our school.”
Ms Hughes also asked for the 12-week consultation to be extended to allow interested parties more time to put their views forward but both council leader Phil Davies and Councillor Tony Smith - cabinet member for children and family services - said they felt 12 weeks was a suitable length of time.
The £72,000 deficit has been caused by a reduction in the number of pupils and is linked to changes in the way funding is allocated by Government.
Julia Hassall, Wirral’s director of children’s services told the cabinet that the “shortfall” has the potential to increase to £232,000 based on the number of children currently on the school roll.
Ms Hassall said the needs of the children must be “at the centre” of any decision that is made and that the consultation must be “open and transparent.”
The Globe understands that the 12-week consultation will start in February.
After the meeting, Ms Hughes told the Globe she was “not surprised” with cabinet’s decision and said she knew it was a “foregone conclusion”.
Peter Crawford, chairman of Taiko Dragons – a charity that carries out music therapy at Lyndale each week – said: “Lyndale School is no ordinary school. It is a school which provides a service for some of the most vulnerable children in Wirral. It is as it were in our words like ‘an intensive care unit’ within the school system which is vital for Wirral’s very special pupils who need one to one help in many cases.
“It plays a vital role as a stable factor which is essential.
“The only ones who would benefit from Lyndale School’s closure would be a building firm, building the new extensions attached to other schools.
“Any family in the area of Wirral may be forced to require to call on this school which is really a safety net of unbelievable quality for children whose conditions merit them attending here.
“Under no circumstances should closure be an option.”
More than 5,300 people have signed an online petition against axing Lyndale.
In 2004, Globe readers donated more than £80,000 for the school during a fundraising campaign to provide pupils with a sensory garden