York & North Yorkshire

Autism charity complains over education unit closure

A charity has made a formal complaint about the closure of a special educational unit in Harrogate.

Harrogate Autistic Society claims parents were not consulted and has asked the Local Government Ombudsman to look into the issue.

The unit at Hookstone Chase Primary School was closed as part of a £7.5m scheme to "improve" special education provision in mainstream schools.

North Yorkshire County Council said it had consulted over the proposals.

The authority has spent £4.5m on increasing provision for children with special educational needs in 26 mainstream schools.

A further £3m has been spent on the recruitment of additional teachers and support staff.

'Severe effect'

Sherri Walker's nine-year-old son Sam was one of the pupils who attended the support unit at Hookstone Chase school.

Mrs Walker said the changes had had such a severe effect on her son she had removed him from the school.

She said: "He became very distressed when he was moved into mainstream classes and straight away he just didn't want to go to school, he was banging his head and biting his arms.

"We've had no choice but to find a specialist school for Sam."

Harrogate Autistic Society said it welcomed the enhanced provision in mainstream schools but that it would not be right for every child.

It said it was concerned about the way the changes were being implemented and would have preferred the specialist unit to have been maintained.

The county council said every head teacher and special educational needs co-ordinator, as well as parents at the affected schools, had all been consulted and most had welcomed the changes.

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