Dismay as Wigan special school ‘family’ set to be split up

Hope School, which is currently in Marus Bridge
Hope School, which is currently in Marus Bridge

A whistleblower has criticised council plans to move a Wigan special school as its successful nursery and early-years provision would not be able to go with it.

A consultation is currently under way on the future of Hope School and College, with the proposals including shifting the facility to Central Park to allow more places to be created.

However, it has now emerged that the facility for two-to-five-year-olds would not be able to leave Marus Bridge as provision for that age group is determined by area and there are already enough nursery places in Worsley Hall.

And that has drawn a strong response from the whistleblower, who said the entire Hope School family should stay together and the nursery’s attachment to the special educational needs (SEN) institution was extremely helpful for parents.

The whistleblower said: “The early-years provision is a big unit which runs for children in the community with special educational needs and those who will go on to mainstream schools.

“It has trained staff, it has medical knowledge and it has worked with the council to develop plans for the children and put them in place.

“If parents have children at Hope School they can drop off their younger siblings at the nursery at the same time. Siblings won’t be able to attend the same school. That’s really important.

“This is not the same as other nurseries, it’s unique. It has inclusive teaching at the heart of it and disability is normalised in the model, rather than just having one or two children with disabilities or special educational needs in a class. There isn’t a special needs group and a mainstream group, it’s one group of children, working as a class.

“For a council that is quite progressive it seems a backward step.

“It is something that was set up to support children who were struggling in mainstream nurseries and for that to be withdrawn is quite gut-wrenching.

“There are a lot of ifs and buts in the consultation but to me if the school is to be put somewhere else it should be together.

“It should go as a full entity, not have bits stripped away.

“It’s about parents not having that choice before them of the special provision and support.”

Wigan Council said moving the nursery would affect the facilities already in the Central Park area as well as leaving a gap in Marus Bridge.

However, the town hall has spoken warmly of the provision offered at Hope and says its approach will remain the same.

Cath Pealing, interim assistant director for education at Wigan Council said: “Our future plans for Hope School and College include a limited number of nursery places for two-to-four-year-olds on the new Central Park site.

“These places will be given to those children who need to access the special facilities of the school.

“Options for the current nursery are being considered, such as retaining it at the Marus Bridge site or re-locating to another area in the community.

“No changes will be made until September 2021 and the inclusive, engaging approach the nursery prides itself on will remain in place in order to fully support our children.

“We will consider and collate all views submitted as part of this consultation as our families are really important to shaping the plans.”

The Hope School plan is the first phase of the council’s 10-year proposal for radically overhauling SEN provision in the borough, with the vast majority of schools serving pupils with additional needs expected to make major changes to their existing sites or move to a different location entirely.

The consultation lasts until December 6. Drop-in sessions for Hope School and College staff, governors and parents will be held at the end of November.

To fill in the consultation online, visit www.wigan.gov.uk/HopeSchoolCollegeConsultation