Council wants to bring special needs pupils back into the fold

Children with behavioural and emotional problems may soon be educated in centres attached to mainstream schools, rather than specialist units, under new plans drawn up by Doncaster Council.

The changes, which could be implemented as soon as June this year, aim to drastically cut the number of pupils excluded from school by introducing a "no-exclusions" protocol.

Students that are excluded will be sent to specialist centres for only short periods of time and will be "re-integrated back into mainstream schools as quickly as possible."

Doncaster Council's cabinet member for children's services, Andrea Milner, said: "There are some children and young people whose behaviour is challenging and who find it difficult to engage in learning, for a variety of reasons.

"We are committed to developing a set of new services to provide better and more inclusive arrangements for these pupils that will ultimately lead to improved educational and social outcomes.

"I would encourage anyone with an interest to give their opinions on the proposals, or go along to one of the public meetings where our staff will be on hand to answer any questions."

Following "substantial discussions and analysis" carried out between the council, headteachers and governors, a public consultation has now been launched on the proposals and will run until April 16.

Doncaster Council's aim is to reduce the number of pupils in out-of-school provision, such as Pupil Referral Units and placements outside of Doncaster.

The consultation document drawn up by the authority says: "Some of our children find learning more difficult and experience difficulty with their behaviour or in managing their emotions.

"Most of these children are well-educated within their local schools, sometimes with extra resources.

"Where there is a need for extra resource we are proposing to provide a more comprehensive service, with local resources available to the child more quickly and in school."

Under the proposals, primary school pupils with behavioural problems would be educated in the short-term at centres based at Bentley High Street Primary School and the Long Toft centre in Stainforth.

The Nexus Centre, which currently caters for excluded children aged 12 to 14, would be closed and a "comprehensive outreach service" would be established from four local centres.

Pupils with "more complex" difficulties would be sent to a "more specialised base" at the Gateway Centre. About 120 pupils aged over 14, meanwhile, would be sent to an expanded Springboard Centre.

The consultation document says: "With prompt outreach support we expect far fewer pupils to be out of school.

"We also want to reduce and eliminate exclusions.

"There will be significant improvements in the educational attainment and in the life chances for pupils whose learning difficulties relate to behavioural, emotional and social need."

Public meetings to discuss the proposals will take place at Doncaster North City Learning Centre on Monday, January 24, at Hatfield Visual Arts College on Tuesday, January 25, at Doncaster South City Learning Centre on Wednesday, January 26 and at the Carr House Centre on Thursday, January 27.

Each meeting will run from 6.30pm to 7.30pm.

A spokesman for Doncaster Council said that the changes had not been motivated by Government spending cuts but the proposals were "a priority area of work identified in, and being driven forward, through the work of the Children and Young People's Service improvement plan".

The council said the proposals, if agreed by the Cabinet in June, would be carried out within the service's existing budget.