Special needs services serving Dacorum kids may be forced to close

The SpLD base is based at Thomas Coram school, but serves Dacorum
The SpLD base is based at Thomas Coram school, but serves Dacorum

Children with learning difficulties could ‘slip through the net’ if a proposal to cut learning services that schools receive moves ahead.

That is the fear of parents locally whose children use the Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) service base.

Herts County Council is consulting on plans to scrap the 10 SpLD bases across the county, which would include the base at the Thomas Coram CoE School in Berkhamsted.

Instead, the authority wants to set up four teams to ‘reconfigure’ the services – which ensures access to specialist advice relating to literacy and numeracy.

Despite being at Thomas Coram, the base actually serves 29 Infant and Primary Schools and one Special School in Berkhamsted, Hemel Hempstead, Tring and nearby villages.

Parent Lisa Gomm has just seen her son Miles, eight, assessed by the base as he struggles with spelling, reading and phonics.

She told the Gazette: “Miles has specific learning difficulties with spelling, phonics and reading. Now in Year 4, it has taken a long time to get to where we are now.

“He has only recently been assessed by the SpLD Base and we awaiting their report to advise the support he needs to help him progress.

“If the SpLD Base were to close we fear that there will be less professional personnel on the ground to mentor his progress, advise his teachers of techniques to use and change his learning experience.

“This will also mean that Miles will lose even more confidence in his abilities - not to mention spotting other children with similar needs.”

The SpLD base leaders, Sue Ferguson and Caroline Rennison, said in a joint statement: “Following a funding cut of 58.5 per cebt, agreed by Hertfordshire County Council School Forum, December 2016, there is now a live consultation to look at how the Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) Service can be reconfigured into four teams.

“This would involve the closure of the ten SpLD Bases across Hertfordshire.

“We receive a range of excellent feedback on all the services we provide from local training, access to a Resource Base and support for our area schools in overcoming barriers to learning for individuals.

“Therefore we are encouraging as many people as possible to respond to this consultation which closes on December 20th.

“This is to ensure that the areas that people value most remain part of the service.”

A county council spokesman said: “A public consultation is being carried out following a detailed review of provision for children with specific learning difficulties (SpLD).

“The existing provision has been in place for over 20 years and over that time schools have greatly increased skills and knowledge of SpLD.

“They are now able to meet the needs of the majority of pupils with SpLD and require a service which can support them to meet more complex levels of need where they may not have the expertise themselves.

“The proposal is to close the existing bases and to provide support for complex SpLD as part of the Council’s integrated specialist support service.”

The consultation can be found on the council’s website.