PARENTS of pupils at a Wirral special needs school facing closure have made one final plea for the council to stop their "living nightmares" over the uncertainty of whether their child will be placed in what they deem an unsuitable environment.
A twelve-week consultation into the future of the Lyndale School in Eastham closes on June 25 but parents this week pleaded with council officers to listen to their views and save the closure-threatened school.
The final meeting, held in Bromborough on Monday evening, saw a heated debate take place over the school that has become a second home to many of Wirral's most vulnerable children.
Many believe closing Lyndale is a "done deal" but Julia Hassall, Wirral's director of children's services, said no decision would be made until the end of the "open and transparent" consultation.
Parents had made a public plea for Wirral's 66 elected members to attend Monday's meeting but just four turned up, all speaking in favour of the school.
They were Eastham councillors Dave Mitchell, Phil Gilchrist and Chris Carubia and Wallasey Conservative councillor Paul Hayes.
Former councillors Ian Lewis and Tom Harney - chair of Governors at Lyndale - also attended the meeting.
There had been talk of the possibility of "recreating" Lyndale in its entirety at another site but Lib Dem leader Phil Gilchrist said this would not suffice.
He said: "What the parents want is what their children are having now and not a pale imitation."
Wirral Council has blamed the decision to consult on the closure on Lyndale on changes in government funding and falling roll numbers but parents and staff deny numbers are falling, instead stating that more children are now looking to join the school.
If Lyndale closed, parents would be expected to send their children to either Ellery Park or Stanley School, both of which they believe are unsuitable for their children's needs.
Chantelle Smith, whose seven-year-old son Scott attends Lyndale, said: "I have been to Stanley School, the facilities are absolutely fabulous but I would be absolutely petrified to leave Scott there. He would definitely not go to Ellery Park. It would be a massive risk for Scott to go to that school."
Making one final plea to the council, Chantelle said: "We're begging, please don't close Lyndale."
Julia Hassall also revealed that an independent consultant has been hired to look at the options and produce a report to cabinet at a cost of "up to" £10,000.
In a statement released today, Ms Hassall said: "We have engaged an independent consultant to produce a separate report that will be considered when cabinet makes its decision on how to proceed over Lyndale.
"The independent consultant was engaged by us in response to concerns from parents that the council was going to be entirely ‘judge and jury’ in this matter. The consultant is being given whatever access they need to Lyndale, and other schools, and to Lyndale parents.
"We felt that an independent view was needed on the options, and whether any alternative we are proposing meets the criteria laid down in the SEN improvement test, ie, that any option we are considering was as good as if not better than current provision.
"The consultant we have appointed was not known to us before being engaged, but has considerable experience of Children and Young People’s Services, and is very experienced in special education and school resourcing issues."
Cabinet is not expected to meet to discuss the consultation findings until September.
If Wirral's ruling cabinet agrees to close Lyndale it, it will close at the end of the summer next year and children would be transferred to a new school in September 2015.
Following the meeting, parent governor Chrissie Woodland told the Globe: "We don't have any faith in this consultation period - we are all living nightmares.
"Most of the parents don't want their kids going to Ellery Park so Stanley is our only option but because of the autistic children that are there they require less stimulation than our children - you just can't mix the two.
"The children at Stanley and Ellery Park are going to have to see seizures and resuscitations and feeding tubes and medicines and stuff that they're just not used to. Their parents are frightened because they are going to be traumatised."
Chrissie added: "We're just one big family at Lyndale and the staff know each child so well. We've been through so much and they're splitting us up. We're a family and they're going to destroy that."
The consultation closes on June 25. Visit wirralgov.uk and click on "Consultations" to have your say.
The consultation will close on Wednesday, June 25.
You can view and take part in the consultation by clicking here.
Feedback can be sent by post to The Lyndale School Consultation, Children and Young People’s Department, Hamilton Building, Conway Street, Birkenhead, CH41 1FD, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
What has happened since the closure threat was first announced in December?
December 12: Wirral Council announced it was “minded” to close the school.
December 16: A petition to save the school reaches 3,000 signatures (it now has 6,443).
December 20: Parents ask the council for more time before a report is submitted to cabinet.
January 16: Wirral’s ruling cabinet agrees to consult on the closure of Lyndale.
January 21: Tory lead describes closing Lyndale as an "act of educational vandalism".
January 29: Opposition councillors “call-in” the decision and ask for it to be reviewed.
February 4: Call-in meeting cancelled after bureaucratic bungling means council is in breach of its own constitution.
February 11: Education Secretary Michael Gove pledges his support for the school.
February 14: Wirral South MP Alison McGovern chairs a public meeting over Lyndale’s future.
February 27: Co-ordinating committee uphold cabinet’s decision in rearranged call-in meeting.
April 2: Wirral Council launches 12-week consultation.
April 4: Lyndale parents brand closure consultation 'misleading'.
May 16: Lyndale parents' dismay at Wirral's stay-away councillors.