Save our School: Teachers, parents and former pupils battling to save Harrogate's Grove Academy

Former pupils of Grove Academy made their protest at a recent North Yorkshire County Council meeting.
Former pupils of Grove Academy made their protest at a recent North Yorkshire County Council meeting.

A specialist school in Harrogate is fighting to show North Yorkshire County Council how vital the service is, in the face of ‘scathing’ cuts which could lead to its closure.

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The Grove Academy on Grove Road, Harrogate, teaches students who cannot be taught in mainstream education as a result of permanent exclusion or other social factors.

But in light of a £5.5 million overspend in its educational high needs budget, NYCC is looking at ways of reducing the growing number of permanent exclusions in the county.

One way it proposes to do this is to cut the budget of pupil referral units (PRU) like The Grove Academy and give a reduced portion of the money to a new educational ‘steering group’ made up of local headteachers, council leaders and parents.

NYCC Executive Member for Education, Councillor Patrick Mulligan (Con), said: “The reason we are taking the funding back is because we have a hugely significant deficit in our high needs budget and some of the funding we are taking back is discretionary funding that was given to the PRUs to prevent exclusions.

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“In the last few years permanent exclusions have practically doubled so clearly it’s not working.

“What we are saying is that we will take that money back to meet the deficit in the high needs budget and then use it to try something different.”

He added: “We are not questioning that there is good provision in the PRUs but we need to address the rising exclusion rates.

“At the moment the whole system is very restrictive because a child gets restricted and then goes to a PRU. We want to fund alternative provision in schools so the children don’t have to leave mainstream education.”

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“I understand the PRUs are a lifeline to the children in some cases but I read the other day that 50 per cent of the prison population in the UK have been excluded from school at some point in their lives.

“Exclusion can be a route away from normal society as well as a route back into it but if you look overall the latter is the exception generally.”

But the proposals have been met with strong opposition from all corners of the community.

Sharon Calvert, Women’s Officer at Harrogate and Knaresborough Labour Party said: “To reduce funding to the students at The Grove Academy is to deprive young people who have already been let down by the education system due to their complex issues and prevent them from achieving ‘all that they can be.

County Councillor Geoff Webber (Lib Dem) is fighting to get the decision making process extended and give The Grove Academy a chance to speak at NYCC’s next councillors seminar on December 19.

Coun Webber added that the proposals were ridiculous adding: “They are saying the solution is to cut the remedy.”

He said: “I believe it is being rushed through with as little publicity as possible.

“This is a weakness in the system at NYCC - things seem to get sneaked through before you can do anything about it.”

Sign the petition to save the Grove

More than 2,300 staff, students, parents and Harrogate residents have signed the Change.org petition to save the Grove Academy.

If you would like to help the school show how vital their service is, sign the petition by searching “Save North Yorkshire’s Pupil referral service” on Change.org

You can follow the progress of the campaign on Twitter: @SaveThePRS and on Facebook by searching Save The PRS