Harrogate parents' are raising funds to take legal action against County Council over school cuts

Teachers and students at the Grove Academy in Harrogate.
Teachers and students at the Grove Academy in Harrogate.

Parents at a Harrogate specialist school are crowdfunding to take legal action against the county council following proposals to cut the school’s budget by 83 per cent.

The Grove Academy on Grove Road, is a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) for students who have been excluded from or cannot be educated in mainstream schools for various reasons.

But since October the PRU has been battling plans to cut its funding so significantly that it would be forced to close.

The proposal by NYCC has been developed to save money, in light of a £5.5m deficit in the council’s educational high needs budget. But parents and staff at the school are now raising money to fund legal action against NYCC, on the basis that they have not been properly consulted with.

Parent, Pam Blythe, said: “The school has been the rock that my family needed during a very difficult time with my son.

“I knew nothing about it until my son came home one day and said the school is closing. I haven’t been consulted with properly.

“They haven’t given me enough warning. They haven’t given us any kind of survey or an opportunity to express my views.

“It’s so unfair. These people making this decision have no idea, they need to put themselves in the parents’ position.

“If they saw what the school has done for my family and my son they wouldn’t dream of making this decision.”

Head of English at The Grove Academy, Alex Boyce added: “Whatever they were doing to make parents aware doesn’t really go far enough. It’s not just about distribution and access to documents it’s also about access of events because they were all held around midday in the middle of the working week and most parents couldn’t attend.”

But NYCC has fiercely defended its consultation, which was held until November 11.

Stuart Carlton – corporate director of children and young people’s services at NYCC said:

“Because we recognise the importance of any proposals which would change how we support children with special educational needs in the county we have gone well beyond any statutory requirements to ensure that the voices of young people, their families, teachers and carers are heard as part of this consultation.

“This has included sending specialist staff into schools to talk face to face with young people, sending individual letters to the families of children with Education Health and Care Plans, drop in events, which were heavily promoted in the press and via social media, and putting the full consultation presentation with an explanatory soundtrack on our website.

"This again was heavily promoted and provided the same information and explanation that people attending events would hear. This was available 24/7 to encourage further feedback.

“In addition - ahead of the start of the consultation - all schools received communications which clearly outlined the proposals and asked them to cascade the details to colleagues, parents, carers and young people with SEND.

“This really significant effort to publicise the consultation has resulted in very high levels of response which include feedback from parents and carers, young people, staff and schools – all of which will help inform the decision making process and we thank everyone for taking the time to give us their views.

“We continue to listen and to join forces with other local authorities to call on Government to properly fund SEND education.”

To find the school’s crowdfunding page search ‘save the PRS’ at crowdjustice.com