A petition to save a specialist Harrogate school which helps the ‘most marginalised’ students in the education system has received more than 2,300 signatures.
The Grove Academy is an ‘outstanding’ pupil referral unit (PRU) on Grove Road in Harrogate, and accepts students who have been unable to attend mainstream education due to social, medical and behavioural factors.
But the school, which is one of only ten PRUs in England to be rated as outstanding by OFSTED three times consecutively, is facing ‘forced closure’ as a result of proposals by North Yorkshire County Council.
The council has just closed a consultation on how to claw back a £5.5million overspend in its educational high needs budget, which helps to pay for the PRUs across the county.
But one of the proposals would see the money given to The Grove Academy cut by 83 per cent and used to fund a new system where mainstream schools would get a portion of the money instead.
NYCC says the proposal would help to bridge the multimillion gap in its budget but would ultimately help to keep children in regular schools and subsequently reduce the growing number of permanent exclusions.
But Alex Boyce, Head of English at The Grove Academy says their argument is self-defeating. He said: “How is getting rid of the system, which is ever more in need, going to have anything to do with stopping the number of exclusions rising.
Over the last few weeks parents, former students, councillors, and residents have joined the school’s campaign against the plans.
Parent, Natalie Astwood: “This provision is for children like my daughter that are being let down by mainstream education.
“Her only chance is being educated at The Grove. If the funding gets cut she will end up in young offenders and that’s probably at best.”
Natalie added: “I am up in arms about it and I have been worrying all week.”
Former student, Dani McMillan: “I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today without The Grove.
“I had problems with my behaviour and mainstream school never believed in me or gave me a second thought. From the first day at The Grove they told me I was a capable student. Now I’m looking to study Law at university next year.”
Former student, Kayleigh Speight: “The school helped me deal with my mental health issues. They were always there for me.
“I failed in mainstream school. I went to The Grove and I came out with qualification and skills that I never would have had otherwise.”
Former student, Amy Collins: “I was involved with drugs, crime and violence, the police were constantly knocking at my door.
“I was so close to being put into a youth offenders! Since going to the Grove Academy I achieved 7 GCSE’s all A* to C, and I now run my own business.”