The Grove to stay open until Easter, but future of Harrogate school remains unclear

Grove supporters and staff during a protest earlier this year.
Grove supporters and staff during a protest earlier this year.

Harrogate's Grove Academy will remain open until Easter next year, but the future of the school which educates some of the region's most at-risk youth remains unclear beyond that.

A spokesperson for the National Education Union, one of the groups representing Grove staff as they negotiate a North Yorkshire County Council cut which will see funding cut from fellow Pupil Referral Service units such as itself, confirmed last month the Harrogate school no longer faces closure by Christmas.
"After what has been a long dispute, and the huge amount of support our members have had from the public, the situation has improved somewhat and the Grove is no longer facing closure by Christmas 2019," Dave Pike, of the National Education Union, told the local democracy reporting service.

He added that Delta, the trust which operates the academy, had guaranteed there'd be no compulsory redundancies before Easter 2020.

However, the union said the future remained uncertain for students and staff beyond Easter.
In February, North Yorkshire County Councillors voted in favour of adopting a range of measures to overhaul its high needs budget, as the authority aims to claw back a predicted £5.7m overspend attributed to government underfunding.

The restructure, the county council says, has an emphasis on driving down exclusion rates, in a move that will see prevention funding shifted from the PRS to new school partnerships with mainstream schools.

However, Save The PRS campaign organiser Alex Boyce said a Government influx of £700m in additional funding announced last week would offer the chance to provide increased stability for the school.

"We have campaigned for nearly a year to oppose the cold budget-slashing the council seems intent upon, but our appeals have only won a stay of execution for the PRS," he said.

"Pushing back the fate of the Grove to the end of the school year is simply common sense so we are hopeful the council will make this small concession."

"As things stand, the financial picture looks bleak for the Grove. Put simply, the money is running out. Staff are extremely concerned that redundancies are on the horizon during this school year. This would be hugely disruptive for students as the teachers they know and love, and many of the subjects which they teach, will be lost. The staff will not be easily replaced, especially on half of the budget."

In a press release last week, said the exact amount of funding and where it will be spent will not be known until later when the Local Government Finance Settlement is announced.

Jane le Sage, the county council's assistance director of inclusion, said the funding announcement will "considerably ease pressure short term", but long term solutions were needed as demand for special education needs had increased "at a rate greater than everybody anticipated".

However, the council "do not envisage" that the funding announcement would result in an increase of the average level of funding North Yorkshire students will receive.

Ms le Sage said that the new model would be based on funding of £23,000 per place for students. While this is above the national average, the council

"We do not envisage a need to increase this level of funding but we are intending to fund an enhanced training and therapeutic offer for the alternative provision to ensure young people receive the support they need," she said.

"We very much welcome the announcement from national Government to increase local authority funding for SEND. It will help considerably to ease pressure short term.

"But the long term pressure we face, particularly in children's special education needs and adult social care, continue to increase at a rate greater than everybody anticipated and we need a long term solution to address the pressures."

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter