Delay to specialist facility for Peacehaven school ‘not a cancellation’

Haven Heights school, Peacehaven SUS-160629-223259008
Haven Heights school, Peacehaven SUS-160629-223259008

Plans to delay the opening of a specialist centre for children with autism at a Peacehaven school have been described as ‘the right decision’ by a senior councillor. 

On Monday (November 4), East Sussex County Council’s lead member for education and inclusion Bob Standley agreed to indefinitely postpone the opening of a Special Educational Needs (SEN) facility at Peacehaven Heights Primary School.

The decision comes after “a period of significant changes” at the school, which led to the council establishing an Interim Executive Board (IEB) to govern the school in early September 2019.

Cllr Standley was keen to stress the proposals had not been cancelled and were only being postponed while the school’s new leadership gets to grips with the situation. 

He said: “I’ve had a couple of emails and phone calls recently  concerned that we weren’t going to go ahead. That this was a cancellation rather than a postponement.

“I understand the confusion, but this is a postponement. As soon as the school gets itself on a level keel we will look at it again.”

Cllr Standley added that while “disappointing”, delaying the proposals was “the right decision”.

While no time limit has been put on the proposals, council officers said the authority does not expect the delay would be as long as two years. 

In the meantime, pupils needing SEN support will continue to be placed in special schools (including independently-run special schools), officers said. 

The facility, which was originally given the go ahead last December, is expected to provide specialist support for between eight and ten pupils with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). 

The decision came after a council review of SEN provision in the county, which identified gaps in the specialist provision in mainstream schools.

At the same meeting, Cllr Standley signed off on proposals to open similar facilities at two East Sussex secondary schools – Robertsbridge Community College and Priory School in Lewes.

Each facility would run within the existing school and provide specific support to up to 12 pupils with an education and health care plan (EHCP). 

The council will now move forward with a statutory process with a further four week period of consultation, where interested parties can comment on or object to the proposal. 

A final decision will be made within two months of the end of this process, most likely at a meeting in January 2020.