Saturday, July 08, 2006



SPECIAL SCHOOLS, SPECIAL NEEDS - AND WEST SUSSEX COUNTY COUNCIL ("My lad needs a school", Crawley Observer, July 5 2006, Page 5 / "Family pleads for school to stay open", Crawley News, July 5 2006, Page 5)

Someone, whose opinion I value, has expressed surprise that I missed out Page 5 of Crawley News (and I also missed out Page 5 of Crawley Observer on the same topic).

My reasons for missing Page 5 (of both papers) sound like excuses, so I will just apologise, thank that "someone" for pointing out my serious omission, and try and now make up for it :

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) is "in charge of education provision in the county" -particularly Special Schools and Special Needs.
I am being politely diplomatic here when I say the provision made by WSCC is total crap.
We speak from bitter personal experience as a family - with a 16 year old son with Asperger's, and seeing Deerswood Special School and its Playing Fields quite literally destroyed outside our front door - to make way for an 'exclusive' housing development (which is over-priced crap, but a highly lucrative property deal for WSCC).

The articles on page 5 of the News & Observer concern the anger, frustration, powerlessness, concern and anxiety of two families - one with a 'special needs' Asperger child (Observer), and one with a 'special needs' ADHD child (News). Their stories are depressingly all-too-familiar, and my heart goes out to them.

I will not go into details of our own situation, because it will get me too upset and angry as I I will quote the words of that "someone" (who will remain nameless), who kindly drew my attention to the plight of one of these families (ADHD/News) :

"The school (Abbotsford Special School-Ed) was failing and was put into special measures but the WSCC have decided to close the school instead of trying to turn it around.
That's just an easy way to improve how their performance looks on education - close the schools which get bad results.

"There is some implication for Ifield too. This decision leaves West Sussex with only one secondary school for special needs in Ifield. Manor Green (previously 'Deerswood Special School' etc-Ed) is a great school, partly as a result of the small class sizes. If it has to take up the slack for the rest of the county, it will lose its advantage and not be as good (then get bad results and face closure?-Ed).

"And what about the kids from Abbotsford? They are faced with either being 'shoe-horned' into Manor Green, or having to cope with mainstream schools along with all the kids who would have been at Abbotsford if it had been running at full capacity.

"Expect to hear about a new, exclusive, gated housing development called 'Abbotsford Acres' any day now. Bastards."

Our boy is at Manor Royal, and previously Deerswood. He is generally happy, but gets very anxious if there is ever any suggestion of being moved into a mainstream school

He get on very well at MG, so well that you could wonder why he is there, but we know he would struggle if he went to TBCC or elsewhere.

Possibly the 30 (approx) pupils at Abbotsford are in a worse position than him. How must they be thinking about being moved back to the mainstream?

They would be better off in Manor Green, but then Manor Green would be that little bit worse for having more pupils - unless it was given more staff.

I believe Wandsworth Tories have a similar approach to special schools, saying how important they are but closing them down wherever possible.

Shame about the old Deerswood site, but the new school is a vast improvement on the old one and opinions of it should not be colorued by any feelings about the old site - thats just a consequence of WSCC having the habit of breaking 6 eggs to make a 2-egg omelette.
...and making a highly lucrative property 'killing' with our money.

Thanks, Skuds, for your contribution - the first.
Losing that Deerswood site (and Playing field) was a 'Rob Peter To Pay Paul' exercise. No actual improvement to education in Crawley.

Real improvement would have been to re-build the new special school on the playing fields; and, after completion, knock down the old school building - and make that the new playing field.
My youngest son is about to enter his final year at MG (having been at Deerswood before that). We are so lucky to have MG - my lad is a different boy thanks to the staff there.

But the thought that it is the best in the county is frightening. We need more! Yesterday the stats were released on autism rates and they say that 1 in 100 kids is affected.

We have to have more special needs places for these children.

There was never any chance of my lad being forced to attend mainstream school, but his brother - who also has Asperger's - went through Northgate Primary (a disaster) and then onto Hazelwick.

Hazelwick were outstanding - they really did try to give him all the help he needed - but A LOT of things went wrong and his education suffered.

Life is going to be hard enough for these kids - they at least have the right to the best start in life school-wise.
Many thanks for your contribution, "Andy's Mum" - appreciated. Our 16 year old has Asperger's - and he's in a mainstream school in Crawley -'unstatemented'.

Because he is academically very bright - and an 'angel' at school -many of his problems are only seen within the home - but we do worry about the time when he leaves school.

Our other son is at the same school. He hasn't got Asperger's - but I think you will more than understand, 'Andy's Mum', when I say there could be something called 'Asperger's Brother Syndrome' !
I think (correct me if I am wrong) that Manor Green is the best secondary special needs school in the county by default - when Abbotsford goes it will be the only one.

That is not to play down its qualities: it has been fantastic for our boy.
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