Fears special school for disabled will shut

Fears special school for disabled will shut

Chipping Norton town mayor Chris Butterworth

The school

First published in News
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THE future of an Oxfordshire special school last night looked in doubt.

Residents in Chipping Norton fear the town’s Penhurst School could close.

And last night charity Action for Children, which runs the school, refused to commit to its future or to comment on rumours that it was under threat of closure.

Spokesman Katie Clarke said: “Action for Children’s primary concern is and always will be the welfare of and support for the young people at Penhurst.”

She would not comment on whether closure was an optionbeing considered or on when a decision on the “long-term strategy” would be made public.

The school, in New Street, provides a residential education for some of the most vulnerable children, with most pupils suffering profound and multiple learning disabilities.

It is rated outstanding by Ofsted, and takes children from all over the UK who are placed there by their local authorities.

It has about 20 pupils aged between five and 19, few of whom are able to communicate verbally or walk unaided.

Chipping Norton town mayor Chris Butterworth said: “We had heard a rumour it might close. It would certainly be unfortunate because we’ve had them here for some time.”

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Penhurst has been on the same site since 1904, starting life as an orphanage, and becoming a school for homeless children, then a school for those with physical disabilities in the 1960s. Since the early 1990s it has been a school for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties.

Mr Butterworth described the school as a “recognised part” of Chipping Norton. He added: “We see the children in and around Chippy a lot, they go to church services and they have become an accustomed face.”

The charity also runs two other schools in Oxfordshire, Parklands Campus in Abingdon, which opened in September 2011 and provides an education for 11 to 19-year-olds with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, and Redwood House, a specialist centre for those aged 19 to 25 on the same site as Penhurst.

Owen Morton of Oxfordshire County Council said: “We have not been notified of potential change at the school, however we feel sure the charity will involve us at the appropriate time.”

Comments (1)

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11:34am Wed 16 May 12

Nabil Shaban says...

My old school, Penhurst, possibly for closure. However, should I go all sentimental about this? I do not believe in segregated special schools for disabled children. The education I received at Penhurst was poor standard...but it was mostly a secure and happy place for me, where I felt loved and cared for by most of the staff, and fellow pupils. It was a great place for making friends. However, disabled children like me should have gone to "normal" schools, where we would be intergrated with non-disabled children, not just for our benefit, but for the benefit on non-disabled children. It is the lack of exposure and familiarity which breeds prejudice, misconceptions and fear. If Penhurst was closing down because disabled children were now being universally accepted in mainstream education, with all the necessary additional support and care in place, then I will not think it a bad thing, other than feeling sad to see another relic of my past vanish (the children's hospital where I spent my earliest years, has already been demolished), but I think it unlikely, especially with the current government's anti-disabled people policies and expenditure cut-backs, this is the case. From what I read, there still doesn't seem to be a great advance in making mainstream schools provide accessible education for all disabled children. Since the early 1990s Penhurst "...has been a school for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties." If the school is closed down, where will these children go? Certainly not to mainstream schools. What is to be their fate? I have a horrible suspicion that given our national health system no longer considers disabled children's lives worth saving, and we have laws that allow for the aborting of disabled foetus' who have achieved full-term, and disabled babies need not be resuscitated, and "assisted suicide" is being made publicly acceptable and liable to be legalised (i.e. de-criminalised), society no longer anticipates the survival of disabled children (or unproductive consumers), and so, special schools will no longer be needed, because disabled children are going to be murdered either before they are born or after.
My old school, Penhurst, possibly for closure. However, should I go all sentimental about this? I do not believe in segregated special schools for disabled children. The education I received at Penhurst was poor standard...but it was mostly a secure and happy place for me, where I felt loved and cared for by most of the staff, and fellow pupils. It was a great place for making friends. However, disabled children like me should have gone to "normal" schools, where we would be intergrated with non-disabled children, not just for our benefit, but for the benefit on non-disabled children. It is the lack of exposure and familiarity which breeds prejudice, misconceptions and fear. If Penhurst was closing down because disabled children were now being universally accepted in mainstream education, with all the necessary additional support and care in place, then I will not think it a bad thing, other than feeling sad to see another relic of my past vanish (the children's hospital where I spent my earliest years, has already been demolished), but I think it unlikely, especially with the current government's anti-disabled people policies and expenditure cut-backs, this is the case. From what I read, there still doesn't seem to be a great advance in making mainstream schools provide accessible education for all disabled children. Since the early 1990s Penhurst "...has been a school for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties." If the school is closed down, where will these children go? Certainly not to mainstream schools. What is to be their fate? I have a horrible suspicion that given our national health system no longer considers disabled children's lives worth saving, and we have laws that allow for the aborting of disabled foetus' who have achieved full-term, and disabled babies need not be resuscitated, and "assisted suicide" is being made publicly acceptable and liable to be legalised (i.e. de-criminalised), society no longer anticipates the survival of disabled children (or unproductive consumers), and so, special schools will no longer be needed, because disabled children are going to be murdered either before they are born or after. Nabil Shaban
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