Parents hit out over proposed changes to specialist education unit in South Tyneside

Parents of youngsters with extra educational needs fear their children's futures could be at risk from proposed cuts to staff numbers at a specialist unit in South Tyneside.

Monday, 23rd April 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 23rd April 2018, 7:11 am
Parents outside Fellagte Autistic Unit, Oxford Way, Jarrow, who are angry over cuts to staff at the unit.

A new structure planned at the Fellgate Autistic Base - in the ground of Fellgate Primary School, in Jarrow - has led to fears of cuts to the teaching and educational practitioners staff.

If proposals go ahead, parents fear the role of communication champion - who helps develop pupils’ speech and communication skills - will also go - with greater integration of staff between the base and the main school.

Fellgate Autistic Unit, Jarrow.

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Parents say the pupils currently have three staff for each class of six and this could be reduced to two.

One parent, who wished not to be named, said: “How an earth they can reduce the staff they have.

“Our children didn’t choose the life they’ve been handed but we as parents are there to make sure they get the very best help so they can go on to lead good independent lives in the future. These changes are definitely going to set the children back.

“The teachers are amazing at what they do they teach our children to do things we never could, because they have the time, the knowledge and the dedication to do it. We do too but it’s different. Take staff away and how are they going to give our children the time they need?

Fellgate Autistic Unit, Jarrow.

“How do they go on trips with two teachers and seven kids. Who’s hand doesn’t get held?”

Another parent said: “My son is, for all intense and purpose, non-verbal. He has really come along in the last three years by attending the school and his progression has most definitely been due to the dedication and consistency of staff at the base and the ration of one staff member to two pupils.

“He has only progressed the way he has been because of the small classes with one full time teacher and two full time Senior Educational Practitioners in place.”

Letters were sent to parents ahead of the Easter break - highlighted the view that the staff restructuring would be “beneficial” - something they don’t agree with.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “The proposed new structure will continue to meet the needs of each individual child, including those identified within education health and care plans.

“The restructure proposed by governors will ensure that the school is sustainable in the future. If approved, the proposed restructure will not come into force until September 2018.”