Queen’s Park special school to close in 2013

Lincolnshire County Council on Tuesday decided to close Queen’s Park School, one of Lincoln’s special needs schools, despite opposition from parents.

The County Council first considered closing the school and merging it with St Christopher’s and St Francis earlier in the year and a petition was put forward by Friends of Queen’s Park School.

Despite signatures from over 400 online petitioners and scrutiny from the City of Lincoln Council, the school will be merged with other schools in order to invest more money into other local special schools.

According to Lincolnshire County Council, the school was no longer “fit for purpose”. The council also explored different options, such as moving the school or rebuilding, prior to its decision.

Executive Councillor for Children’s Services Councillor Patricia Bradwell said: “The accommodation and buildings at Queen’s Park School are no longer fit for purpose and this is why we have taken this decision.

“We recognise that the school provides outstanding learning and teaching – we want to ensure that the ethos and culture of the school is maintained with staff as they move with the children to St Christopher’s and St Francis schools.

“This will provide a better environment and facilities for the children and young people with additional needs. The childrens’ interests are at the heart of this.

“We acknowledge that any change like this is difficult but we will make sure the transition to the other schools is sensitively handled for the good of the children.”

By closing Queen’s Park, £2 million would be invested into St Christopher’s and St Francis to help cater to more local children with complex special needs. The annex for 14-19-year-olds will still be in operation.

The school will not be formally closed until August 2013.

‘Against parents’ wishes’

Independent County Councillor for Navenby and Branston Marianne Overton feels that the decision to close the school despite opposition is “perverse”.

She said: “Queens Park School is clearly an outstanding school and it is therefore perverse to close it against the wishes of parents, governors and the community.

“This popular school was full and could not take the growing population of children with severe specialist needs, for whom there is currently no other option in the area.

“It is said to be too small, but the proposal is to reduce the number of places available from 81 currently there to 30 tacked onto each of two other schools.

“There would also be fewer specialist trained teachers for the smaller number of children, which inevitably means less flexibility and a narrower range of dedicated teachers and support staff.

“I recognise that a case was made that the building was not “fit for purpose for the future” in order to access the government funding that was available at the time, but snatched away as unaffordable at the last minute.

“If the buildings were that bad, the school could not have achieved outstanding in their Ofsted inspection.

“Children attending this school come from Lincoln and North Kesteven, we were told. So closing this option cannot be said to reduce travel. Indeed it will increase travel.

“The cost of getting things wrong for these special children in their formative years is extremely expensive, both personally to the individuals and their families and on the public purse in the longer run.

“More work was needed to work with the families and the wider community supporting these children and the school, to seek better funded options, drawing on the strengths of the school and parents, rather working against them.”

Photo: Dominic Clark for the Lincolnite