February 23, 2022 7.00 pm

“A real privilege”: Parting message from boss of Lincoln school for vulnerable children

“The response from parents, carers and the local community has been overwhelming”

A school for children with specialist educational needs has been unsuccessful in its bid to find new owners, and is now thanking all those involved with the centre for their “tireless” work through difficult times.

Specialist Education Support Network announced a closure process had started on Monday, February 7, bringing to an end its provisions and help for young people with social, emotional, mental health or behavioural difficulties in Lincolnshire.

The winding down of the network will mean the closure of its independent school in Lincoln, the George Johnson Education Centre at The Point Business Park, named after the last surviving Dambuster when it opened in 2018.

The Last Dambuster George Johnson, opening the centre named after himself back in 2018. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

SESN remained in talks with a number of trusts and educational groups over potential takeovers, but was unsuccessful in bids to find a suitable provider, all but confirming the inevitable closure.

The news was met with shock and sadness across the local community, with many reserving praise for the dedicated work of the network from the moment it launched in the county in 2017.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Richard Bell, CEO of the Specialist Education Support Network, has issued a statement apologising for the closure and expressing his thanks for the “overwhelming” response from parents and carers alike.

He said: “The closure of our school has been an extremely difficult process, and have looked at all options and opportunities to keep its doors open to our students and the local community.

“Unfortunately, however following recent talks with a number of education providers for a possible take-over, these have been unsuccessful.

“The response from parents, carers and the local community has been overwhelming and goes some way to demonstrate the impact that our school had on the young people and their families since we opened in 2017, and the significant need for provisions to support young people with SEMH difficulties.”

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Mr Bell went on to say the positive work done by the network with a host of young people across Lincolnshire must not be forgotten amidst the news of its closure.

“Unfortunately, the overall positive impact on the young people we have supported is and has often been overlooked. Ensuring a nurturing and relational approach throughout our provision, implemented by our fantastic team of staff, allowed our students to overcome significant barriers to allow them to access their education.

“Our provision not only aimed to support young people, but to introduce young professionals entering the education sector to gather awareness and an understanding of young people with SEMH needs. We worked closely with the local universities offering placements to those interested in entering the education sector.

“I wish to offer my apologies for removing this valuable opportunity, but encourage other SEMH provisions to support this programme and allow new professionals to experience all aspects of education and not just the primary and secondary mainstream routes thus preparing them fully for their role.”

Squadron Leader George “Johnny” Johnson made a visit to the education centre he opened in March 2018.

Bosses at SESN are liaising with Lincolnshire County Council to commission child placements from its network to elsewhere in the county, and Richard Bell rounded off his statement with a parting message for those involved with the system in any capacity.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who have worked with SESN and its George Johnson Education Centre.

“I also wish all our recent and past students the very best for their futures and I have no doubt they will succeed in whatever pathway they choose.

“It has been a real privilege to work with some incredible young people and watch them develop and grow as young adults.”