Councillors Back Changes to Learning Support Classes for Pupils with Additional Needs in Rhondda Cynon Taf
Changes to some learning support classes in Rhondda Cynon Taf for pupils with additional learning needs have been given the backing of councillors
The council’s cabinet approved taking the proposals to the next stage on Monday, September 18 after it considered the feedback of the consultation.
The report to cabinet said that RCT has a range of specialist provisions which include 45 learning support classes, two Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) and four Special Schools.
It said that RCT has an excellent range of learning support classes attached to mainstream schools but that it has become increasingly apparent that the range currently available is disproportionate to the level of need in some areas.
The changes that cabinet gave its support to include:
The observation and assessment learning support class at Penrhiwceiber Primary School being moved to Abercynon Community Primary School from September 2024
The learning support class for pupils in Years 3-6 with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at Abercynon Community Primary School being moved to create a through provision in the primary phase at Perthcelyn Primary School from September 2024
Setting up an early years assessment and intervention learning support class or pupils under statutory school age with significant presenting needs at Abercynon Primary School taking effect from April 2024
The setting up of two Welsh medium primary phase learning support classes at the new Welsh medium primary school in Rhydyfelin for pupils with significant ALN from September 2024
The setting up of one learning support class for pupils in years 7-11 with ASD at the new 3-16 school on the Hawthorn Primary/High School site from September 2024.
The report said that data analysis shows that there is currently insufficient provision in the secondary sector for pupils with ASD, the absence of cross phase specialist provision on some school sites means that some learners experience unnecessary transitions, one learning support class would benefit from relocation to fully accessible schools that have benefited from the Sustainable Communities for Learning investment and there is insufficient provision to meet the needs of learners in the early years.
It added that the proposals aim to develop “a robust continuum of provision that effectively addresses a wide range of need across all year groups”
as well as “avoiding unnecessary transition across schools by establishing cross phase specialist provisions within individual schools where possible and “establishing LSC provisions in fully accessible settings that provide a
learning environment fit for the 21st Century.”
The report also said that implementing this proposal will be of benefit to Welsh medium pupils with significant ALN across RCT and will ensure greater equality and access to specialist provision.
It added that the current location of the Penrhiwceiber learning support class is felt to be no longer suitable to meet the needs of the new curriculum within a fully accessible environment and the proposed relocation will ensure that
pupils have access to premises which are more accessible and better equipped to meet a range of needs and ensure greater compliance with the
Equality Act 2010.
The report said that the relocation of the learning support class for pupils with ASD from Abercynon Community Primary to Perthcelyn Community Primary will eliminate unnecessary transition for pupils needing specialist learning support provision throughout primary school.
The cabinet added that in the Abercynon learning support class the number of pupils attending the learning support classes in September 2023 that will be affected by the proposed relocation is very low and if there’s opposition from parents to the relocation then supported mainstream placements in the existing settings can be looked at.
The report said that placements at Penrhiwceiber Observation and Assessment Class are intended to be short-term and it is highly likely that the majority of the pupils will have moved on to their long-term educational placement before the proposed implementation date of September 2024.
The consultation feedback said that 28 people agreed to the proposal, 85 disagreed and 13 were unsure how to respond.
On the second proposal 45 agreed to the proposal, 88 disagreed and nine were unsure how to respond and on the third 45 responders agreed to the proposal, 52 disagreed and 24 were unsure how to respond.
On the fourth, 54 agreed to the proposal, 36 disagreed and 30 were unsure how to respond and the fifth 54 agreed to the proposal, 37 disagreed and 28 were unsure how to respond.
Cabinet member for education Councillor Rhys Lewis said there’s been an increasing number of children needing ALN support in recent years and the report demonstrates that cabinet is ready to invest in ALN support adding that it’s their duty to ensure that they have the adequate support services available for young people with ALN.
He said the move from Abercynon to Perthcelyn is the right thing to do in the long term and he welcomed the establishment of two new Welsh medium primary learning support classes which offers greater choice.
The leader of the council Councillor Andrew Morgan said it’s not about cost saving and that it’s actually more than £400,000 a year in increasing costs for the extra classes and places and asked officers to confirm what transitional arrangements would be put in place with the officer saying they acknowledge the concerns and anxieties of the families affected so they commit to provide some additional support and that staff would be moving with the children.
The council will now publish statutory notices in relation to the proposals and will allow for a 28 day period of objections and if any are received they would be considered by cabinet.
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