School’s future in the balance

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THE future of a school for boys with learning difficulties has been thrown into doubt after Milton Keynes Council opened consultation on its possible closure.

The Gatehouse School in Stantonbury opened in 1990 and caters for around 40 boys aged between 12 and 16 who experience emotional and behavioural difficulties and associated learning difficulties.

Consultation began on Tuesday, January 4, and will run until the end of the month.

Pat Collins, a parent and part-time teaching assistant who is set to become a school governor, believes the school has made great improvements over the last 12 months and that his 13-year-old son Michael is finally in a place where he can be properly schooled.

“We are devastated by the news,” said Pat. “It took us so long to get Michael into a school which recognises his problems.

“Before, he did not want to know about school, but since going to Gatehouse, we can’t tear him away.

“The school did have a bad reputation, but it has come such a long way in improving that and they have worked really hard with the local community to improve relations”.

He believes that many of the boys would not integrate back into mainstream schools if Gatehouse were to close.

“Some of the boys here are really reliant on the school – it is part of their routine which is so important, and if you change that, they might not react well returning to mainstream education.”

The council confirmed that the future of Gatehouse was being looked into, and that vast improvements had to be made in order to secure the future of the school.

A council spokesman said: “While the school has made progress over the last year, the council and school agree that this cannot be sustained without additional changes.

“In order to address this, the council is proposing to close the current school and open new provision in its place.

“This would bring about necessary improvements to secure appropriate standards of education for pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

“The current interim leadership team at The Gatehouse School have built the momentum for change but there is still much to achieve.

“The council has met with the school’s leadership team and governors to discuss the options and it is agreed that systematic and sustained change will not be possible under the current circumstances.”