Parents fight to save exceptional special needs school
Ofsted outstanding-rated Gosden House School in Bramley is under threat as Surrey County Council publishes its plans to re-organise its county-wide special needs provision in an attempt to save costs.
After throwing the Gold Arts Mark and Shakespeare’s Globe Education Trust partner school into turmoil last year with its proposal to remove the unique girls-only secondary department, last year also saw Surrey Council also strip out Gosden House's highly valued residential provision to save money. Now the council proposes to close the existing school which provides a unique facility for pupils with special needs from the length and breadth of the county and open a secondary school for high functioning autistic 11-16 year olds on the site.
Parents of the school are campaigning to prevent the closure and appealing to the wider Surrey community to express their disapproval by signing an online petition - you.38degrees.org.uk/p/sghs - with the aim of getting the council to reconsider the proposal.
“We would like to appeal to Surrey residents to act now to help us save this life-changing school,” said Laura Sabharwal, a parent of the Gosden House School Parents’ Action Group.
“We fully appreciate that Surrey must cater for the full range of needs, but we cannot stand idly by whilst Surrey destroys this iconic special needs institution. It seems that the proposals are based entirely on financial criteria rather than the fact that this school is profoundly changing the lives of vulnerable children and families in the county.
“The proposed solution is ill-conceived, at best short-sighted, as they will not only throw away over 50 years of exceptional provision for special needs children in Surrey, but also create problems for generations to come as existing and potential future pupils are forced into mainstream schools.
“Surrey’s own Learning Difficulties Review admits that a majority of SEN (special educational needs) professionals doubt the ability of mainstream schools to successfully include SEN children without significant extra facilities, staff and training; in other words, money and time.
“It is clear the consequences have not been considered in the rush to save money. Surrey admits the feasibility study has not yet been undertaken but seems not to care that the school is disrupted and children compromised, as staff leave to seek job security elsewhere.”
Practically, parents are also concerned that the proposal of combining the facility for existing pupils (primary co-ed and secondary girls only) together with the high functioning autistic children during a four-year handover period will put all children at risk.
Laura said: “We support the ambition to provide a better and affordable service for all special needs children but this proposal is negligent. Across the county it will lead to reception-age children with in many cases complex needs, in transport for up to 2.5 hours each day, a massive reduction in special school places and a betrayal of the decades of dedication and inspirational teaching which have made this school a beacon of excellence."
Sign the petition to save Gosden House School at you.38degrees.org.uk/p/sghs