Hunt for places as school closure looms

jpco-29-1-14 Discovery New School parents finding it difficult to find school places for their children (Pic by Jon Rigby)

jpco-29-1-14 Discovery New School parents finding it difficult to find school places for their children (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Parents of pupils at a failing school say they are finding it difficult to find suitable alternative places ahead of its closure in April.

Discovery New School in Broadfield went into special measures in May 2013 and the Department for Education (DfE) said it must close on April 4.

West Sussex County Council is working to find alternative places for the children but many offered to parents are as far away as Rusper, Dorking and Newdigate.

Amanda Steaman from Pound Hill, whose five-year-old daughter Chloe goes to Discovery, said: “We haven’t been given any help at all. We have been told by the school governors the county council is supposed to be helping us.

“I cannot home educate her because I work. Discovery New School should be given a chance. My children are brilliant at reading. It’s going to be heartbreaking to leave that class.”

Louise Hebert, from Tilgate, has two boys aged six and four. She said: “I don’t blame the council for the situation we’re in. You are just left on the waiting list like people who are moving to the area. We are not being treated any different. The council was never given time to plan for it.”

Suzanne Cass’s six-year-old daughter Molly has been at Discovery New School since it opened in 2011.

Molly has a rare kidney condition meaning she will need dialysis soon, but under West Sussex County Council’s admissions criteria, she does not classify as having ‘exceptional and compelling’ needs.

Staff at Discovery have been giving Molly medication at set times throughout the school day. Mrs Cass said this was not being guaranteed by other schools they had looked at.

She said: “We have to consider she has 25 tablets a day. West Sussex [County Council] are ticking a box for exceptional medical needs and they have said she isn’t considered to have exceptional medical needs.”

Molly also has fortnightly visits to hospital for intravenous iron injections. Mrs Cass said: “We are on a knife edge. A little cough or cold can turn into a chest infection. I cannot fault the input from Discovery New School and the Evelina (Hospital) School in London. I’m looking for someone to continue that, but I don’t think I will find it.”

A county council spokesman said: “Whilst we have every sympathy for the difficult situation the parents of children at the Discovery New School find themselves in, legally we are required to work within our published admissions criteria.

“In order for a child to meet the criteria for the ‘exceptional and compelling’ category, evidence must be provided which states why a child must attend a specific school. In our opinion this was not provided in this case.

“This situation has been fully explained to Ms Cass and we have also explained that this decision can be revisited if further professional evidence can be provided. The county council has had no control over the closure of the Discovery New School and is doing all it can, in difficult circumstances, to try and find suitable alternative placements for the children.”




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