Children with special needs could be denied the opportunity to learn in mainstream schools in Richmond, campaigners have claimed.

Achieving for Children – Richmond and Kingston councils’ company to deliver children’s services – currently offers a Peripatetic Learning Support service (PLS) which sends staff into mainstream schools to support children with special educational needs.

Now it is proposed that the PLS service is replaced in Richmond by more individualised school-by-school provision, which Richmond Council says brings the borough into line with most others in the country.

But the union GMB has branded the change ‘a step backwards’

GMB official Paul Grafton said: “Closing this service is unnecessary, needless and a step backwards as children and parents will be denied the right to be taught in mainstream schools.”

Mr Grafton added: “As a parent I would never want to see my child treated differently because of a disability or medical needs and I suspect there are plenty of parents that would feel the same way.

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

“The cut is also making many people who go into these schools to look after the children redundant.”

Mr Grafton said there had been no consultation with residents or parents on the change.

The governors at Christ School in Richmond Road called a meeting on May 4 to announce the change to parents and teachers.

A parent of a child at Christ School, who did not want to be identified, told Richmond and Twickenham Times: “These are the kids that really need the support. This is the department which cannot be cut because it is so unfair to these children.

“The teachers and assistants who provide the support are being told that they are losing their jobs and so these kids are going to lose out and have to go because they will not have the support they need.”

By terminating these services and support, the GMB say children with disabilities and complex medical needs within the borough will have a tougher time gaining access to mainstream school settings.

They say the children, who are academically capable to attend these schools providing they have the right support, will be more susceptible to being refused places based on their physical and medical needs.

Richmond Council said there was no proposal to stop children with special educational needs being taught in main stream schools – just a different way of providing the support.

Richmond Council’s strategic cabinet member for children’s services and schools, councillor Paul Hodgins said support would be reorganised so it is done on a one-to-one basis, which the council said will be ‘more efficient’.

He said: “The current centrally coordinated Peripatetic Learning Support service (PLSA) has been reviewed, as part of an overall review and wider programme of restructure.

“Rather than having a central service, a Learning Support Assistant or Teaching Assistant, who would provide peripatetic support to children on a one-to-one basis, from 5 to 16 years of age, would be a more efficient approach that would improve standards and quality of service.

“Therefore, AFC seeks to remove this central service and give each school the governance and accountability to use a Teaching Assistant.

“Each school will have the ability to upskill their own staff to offer continuous consistent support to the children in their care.”

GMB have sent requests to the other councillors to intervene as a matter of urgency and have also set up a petition and is available at https://www.gmb-southern.org.uk/kingston-council-end-services-for-disabled-children-in-richmond/