Fiona Hyslop MSP – Pinewood School Consultation Submission

Submission for Pinewood School Consultation
From Fiona Hyslop MSP for Linlithgow 30/01/14

I am writing to submit my views as the local Constituency MSP for Linlithgow on the proposed changes to Pinewood School in Blackburn, West Lothian and request that you amend the proposals preferably by withdrawing and resubmitting after an amendment following a discussion with the parents.

I am aware that there are three separate consultations and I agree with the proposals in the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and the SEBN (Social, Emotional and Behavioural Needs) consultations but I have concerns that there is an overall lack of strategy with regards to the SCN (Severe and Complex Needs) proposals. I would also want to acknowledge that the council did respond to requests to extend the consultation, extending it to 31/01/14.

I am also concerned that no parents of nursery age children were contacted even though their children would be the most affected. This is of particular concern when it specifically states in the Schools Consultation (Scotland) Act (2010) (Schedule 2, introduced by section 2 –relocation) that, “the parents of any children expected by the education authority to attend any affected school within two years of the date of publication of the proposal paper” are considered “relevant consultees”. By not doing this, the council have not met the terms of the Act.

From speaking with officials, my understanding is that you made an active decision not to consult the parents of nursery pupils. Bearing in mind that no pupils at Ogilvie or Pinewood with Severe and Complex Needs will be relocated as a result of this proposal and the only children to be relocated are those at Blackburn Primary Annex, failure to consult the parents of nursery age children is a glaring omission as primarily the children most affected are those who are about to start school.

As no children currently attending Pinewood or Ogilvie school buildings themselves are to be relocated, I do not see how you can treat this as a relocation consultation. You are quite clearly closing primary provision at Pinewood and expanding primary provision at Ogilvie and the consultation should therefore been about closure of provision at Pinewood. This aspect alone should be enough for you to decide to withdraw current proposals and re-present plans which are more suitable to the children’s needs, more acceptable to their parents and which will recognise closure of provision at Pinewood.

I would expect the Council to make clear in reporting on the consultation that removal of Pinewood pupils from Blackburn Primary will not result in any threat to the future viability of Blackburn Primary.

Education Benefit Statement
I do not believe there is a sufficient educational evidence in the educational benefit statement to demonstrate the educational benefits of introducing a new transition of primary to secondary from one school to another. With reference to point 3.2. of the Public Consultation paper, you have offered no examples of what “wider learning experiences and further development of independence as necessary preparation for later life” will be available to the children that they do not already have at Pinewood School. Indeed there is already very well thought through transition agreements at Pinewood between primary and secondary stages. Similarly, with regards to point 3.3 in the consultation, you have not explained why Ogilvie School Campus would be an ideal primary specialist provision and what precisely the children will have available to them that they do not already have at Pinewood. In relation to this I would also have expected an explanation as to what agreed and proposed plans are in place in order to extend both Ogilvie and Pinewood and how this would be funded.

Further to the above I believe that there are a number of unanswered questions which ought to have been considered by the council in advance of this consultation. For example, we do not know how many children will be in each class from P1 to S6 in the proposed provision. Nor do we know how many staff will there be in the proposed provision.

The children are happy and content at Pinewood and I believe it was recently rewarded with an upgrade where parents raised over £50,000 and were allocated another £50,000 for a specially adapted playground. Surely the Council in expanding provision should build on the success of Pinewood by replicating and building a similar provision at Ogilvie.

Continuity for the children and their best interests must remain paramount in this consultation. I would ask you to seriously consider the number of complaints and submissions you will have received to this consultation and would remind you that the parents of these pupils are experts in their own right on the care and attention needed for their own children.

Strategy and Planning
The overall strategy and plans for pupils with Severe and Complex Needs is also absent from the document. I am very concerned about the absence of information in the consultation about the projected roll and in a council area with the highest percentage of the population under 15 in any part of Scotland and with major housing developments planned, this is vital information to be considered in the consultation period. Rationale for the overall strategy is also missing and understanding this overall picture of what is envisaged is crucial.

I am also aware that West Lothian has the 7th highest number of under 5s in Scotland. It is not clear from the council’s consultation that pupil forecast for the next five years has been taken into consideration. I would ask that before making any concrete decisions the council would look into this and also investigate what pupil forecasting took place for the current capacity at Pinewood School.

I would also be interested in knowing whether or not the council had considered the possibility of making Ogilvie a run through School like Pinewood in order to avoid any future disruption. If the Council has considered this, they should have set out the pros and cons of that in the consultation. This is a reasonable proposal and I would ask that the Council seriously assess this option together with parents and withdraw and resubmit new proposals accordingly.

I would ask the Council to reconsider their proposals and represent them in a new consultation and in doing so you can be assured that you will have my full support in finding the right solution along with the parents and the children who are at the centre of this consultation.

I would like to formally add my name and this submission to the consultation and trust that West Lothian Council can come to a fair and positive outcome on this issue to benefit the children involved.