Headteacher says plan to save £5.5m will be 'disastrous' for Harrogate students

The Grove Academy Principal, John Warren (right) with students and staff members.The Grove Academy Principal, John Warren (right) with students and staff members.
The Grove Academy Principal, John Warren (right) with students and staff members.
A leading headteacher in Harrogate has condemned proposals which could close a specialist school for students who cannot be taught in mainstream education.

The Grove Academy, on Grove Road, Harrogate, is a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) where students are referred based on medical grounds or following permanent exclusion from mainstream school.

But North Yorkshire County Council is proposing to cut PRU budgets and reallocate some of the money saved back into mainstream schools.

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The proposals have come in light of a £5.5million deficit in the council’s educational budget, which NYCC blames on poor government funding and increasing numbers of costly permanent exclusions.

By reallocating the money, the council hopes that mainstream schools will be able to give alternative provision to students with special educational needs without the need for expensive exclusions.

But Harrogate Grammar School Headteacher, Richard Sheriff says the proposals would be disastrous for schools and students, and would achieve the opposite of the desired effect.

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He said: “Not having a PRU within the Harrogate area will be a disaster for children. It will result in having nowhere to go for a whole set of children who have varied and particular needs, which will be almost impossible to meet in mainstream schools.

“Schools will have to try harder, within tighter and tighter budgets to provide something that only the PRUs, with their bespoke services are able to do.

“The outcome will be high levels of exclusions.

“We appreciate the local authority have a very difficult job to do with very limited money. The amount of money given by the treasury to education is simply not enough but that said, in

North Yorkshire we haven’t done enough, quickly enough or in an efficient way to preserve the educational needs of young people. This is not something that has happened overnight.”

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In the last few weeks, thousands have signed a petition set up by The Grove Academy to fight the proposals, which would cut the school’s budget by 83 per cent.

NYCC’s Executive will make a decision on the proposals in January.

Stuart Carlton, Director of the Children and Young People’s Service said: “We will still fund sufficient places for permanently excluded children in line with national average rates.

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"Our key aim is to reduce the current levels exclusions as we know that children’s life chances are considerably worsened if they fall out of the mainstream.

"We want to put some resources for more inclusive education in the hands of local school leaders.”