Every child has the right to an appropriate education based on their needs.
This can present challenges for parents when their child has Special Educational Needs; this is exacerbated when those needs require facilities which can only be offered outside of the City.
Derby City Council has a track record of making life very difficult for parents of Special Needs children often resulting in legal action. This is a cost avoidance exercise and has been going on for many years. Derby has limited capacity for specialist educational provision with the consequence that children have to go to schools outside of the City. This can be expensive hence the Council’s incentive to challenge the child’s “need” or to attempt to enforce a cheaper, more unsuitable option.
In recent months, the Council has been coercing parents to accept a placement at a location in Derby which, currently, is empty office accommodation (Croft House) on Ashbourne Road (between Markeaton island and the City Centre). It has no planning permission to change its use, and no OFSTED licence to operate as a special needs establishment. Its principle focus will be children on the autistic spectrum. A few miles away, in Mickleover (South Derbyshire), there is an existing school (High Grange) which can accommodate children with similar needs.
For children who need a school placement nominated, now , for September 2021 – how can Croft House be an option?
The Council is pre-empting the Planning Committee decision and is assuming that it will approve the application by officially nominating Croft House on children’s formal Special Needs plans.
Croft House (Jasmine Hall)
Many objections have been raised around security, noise, air pollution, accessibility, outside play areas, and layout of internal space.
Subject to approvals, a lease will be taken by Smoothstone Care and Education Ltd and it will be run as “Jasmine Hall”. It runs a similar style school in Heanor – Jasmine House School.
High Grange School
Based in the Pastures estate of Mickleover it is set in 13 acres of ground with extensive classroom facilties and outdoor play areas. Its setting is rural, secure and purpose built.
A famous quote from Dr Stephen Shore is:
“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
A child’s diagnosis of autism doesn’t automatically mean that their educational needs are identicial – far from it.
OFSTED will determine whether shoe-horning 16 teenagers with autism, and 16 staff in a 9 roomed office building ,with limited outside space, is appropriate. Many parents and interested parties are firmly of the view that it isn’t.
At present Smoothstone Care and Education Ltd ( who plan to lease the building) have no planning permission to operate as a school, and have no OFSTED licence. Despite this, Derby City Council is promoting it to parents as a preferred option in the City for children with autism…to start from September 2021.
Apart from the questionable educational value of that approach, there are legal issues.
Granting planning permission is a legal process. This application will go to the Planning Committee overseen by local Cllrs. For that process to be legally sound Cllrs must make their individual decision based on the evidence presented to them in that meeting; they must not pre-determine their decision before the meeting. By its actions in offering places to children, Derby City Council has pre-determined the outcome of that planning process – which is illegal and could be challenged.
Consciously, or otherwise, Derby City Council is playing fast and loose with the education of some of the most vulnerable children in the City.
Viewed objectively, this is morally reprehensible!