Today, I’m moving away from my usual content to draw attention to a petition to save St Nicholas Special Needs School in Chippenham, a school in my local area (when I’m not at university in London).
Wiltshire County Council is proposing to close 3 special schools in the county, including St Nicholas’ and creating a ‘super school’. The Parents and Friends of St Nicholas School group have started a petition to stop the closure of the school as they believe it is not in the best interests of the children. I’ll explain why here (all these reasons are from the petition, which I’ll link at the end of this post):
Children need to be educated in a community
The current location of St Nicholas lets the students learn life skills with trips to local shops and parks and around the local area of Chippenham. The location of the new super school is very rural with few amenities. How are the students supposed to learn necessary life skills if there’s nowhere to put them into practice?! Also, this rural location makes me think this is an “out of sight, out of mind” move from the council, and frankly that’s more than a little upsetting. As someone who has had the privilege of meeting even just a few of these children, I can tell you they are some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met, and the Chippenham community needs them as much as they need to be part of the community for their own learning.
Parents deserve a choice of schools to send their children to
Parents who send their children to mainstream school have a choice of which school they send their child to. Parents of those children who need to attend a special needs school should have the same choice. Currently, with multiple special needs schools in the county, this choice IS available. But if the plan goes ahead that choice of school will be removed for these parents as they’ll HAVE to send their child to the one super school, what with it being the one special needs school in the county. Parents should have a choice about what school their child attends, whether that’s a mainstream school or a special needs school.
Children deserve an APPROPRIATE education
Every child deserves an appropriate education. Why I’ve made a big deal of specifying “appropriate” here is because it isn’t just about making sure every child gets an education, it’s about ensuring every child gets an education that is the best for them and works for them. For the children attending St Nicholas, that best version of education is in the smaller classrooms, with small class sizes and teachers and professionals who know each student like they are family. This will all likely be lost with the super school where everything will HAVE to be larger and less individual to accommodate all the students it needs to.
It puts children’s health at risk
The remote location could mean each child travelling for around 3 hours a day (1.5 hours each way) to get to school when you take into account traffic and multiple pick ups. This extended journey time could impact the health of children, such as by inducing seizures in those with epilepsy. This is compounded by the fact that the new location is further away from the 2 main A&E departments in the area. Therefore, if there is a medical emergency, the necessary help is further away. I’m not sure anything else needs to be said now, because frankly, if “it’s potentially putting children’s health at risk” isn’t enough to persuade you that this super school is not in the interests of the children, I’m not sure what I can say to persuade you.
If you believe as strongly as I do that St Nicholas school shouldn’t be closed, sign the petition and/or contribute to the crowdfunding effort for the legal challenge .
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)