FEARS are growing that a unit for young children with special needs may close at a Huddersfield school.
The unit at Lowerhouses CE Junior, Infant and Early Years School provides young children with the stepping stones which they need to progress into mainstream education.
But it is now under threat as part of wide-ranging proposals and changes to specialist education provision for disabled children and those children with special educational needs across Kirklees.
A four-week consultation period has started on special provisions across the authority which will be discussed in March by Kirklees Council’s Cabinet.
The 30-year-old unit is for children with speech and developmental delay and has places for 12 children.
It provides support with communication and social skills and general development for nursery age children who may have a recognised condition such as Down’s syndrome or autistic spectrum disorder. All pupils have a statement of educational needs.
Three-quarters of children who attend successfully go on to reception classes in mainstream schools.
The unit, which is fully integrated into the Early Years Unit at the school, was recently judged as outstanding by Ofsted inspectors.
The provision is staffed by inspiring teacher Stan White, a former London insolvency lawyer who trained as a teacher in 1999 and has a wealth of experience teaching children with special needs.
His son, Maxwell Lockwood, now 16, has Downs syndrome.
Also part of the team is nursery nurse Sarah Dyson.
Stan said: “We provide a stepping stone for the children by looking at the needs of the whole child and giving them a boost to ensure they can succeed in mainstream education.
“We are also keen to share our expertise and do more outreach work so mainstream schools can benefit from our experience.”
Mum Kate Woods, whose three-year-old son Matthew Kavangh attends the unit, said: “Lowerhouses is the perfect stepping stone for children like ours. It helps parents feel reassured that mainstream is a viable option.
“My son’s confidence has grown and he socialises brilliantly with all the other children in the nursery. Lowerhouses gives the desired inclusivity and “added value” to our children.
Laura Berry, whose four-year-old son Luke is now at Shelley First School, said: “The resourced provision at Lowerhouses is unique and its approach to special needs is second to none. It also houses one of the most amazing people I will ever have the pleasure to meet, Stan White.
“His energy, innovative approach to teaching, patience and compassion is truly admirable. I hope more parents will send their children to Stan as there is no better starting block for the education or our special little ones.”
Five-year-old Octavia Trinh is now attending Helme school after successfully transferring from Lowerhouses.
Her mother Georgina Hutchinson said: “Octavia has emerged as a happy, enthusiastic, sociable and able little girl who has blended into her new school with ease.”
Headteacher Paul Scrimshaw said: “The provision is invaluable for every child. It teaches our children to respect differences in people and helps promote changing attitudes in society to children and adults with any type of learning disability.”