Par­ents in tears as school closes down

Frus­tra­tion as cam­paign to keep it open fails

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - By Amita Joshi amita.joshi@trin­i­tymir­

THERE were tears of frus­tra­tion yesterday (Wed­nes­day) for par­ents and pupils of Penn School as the de­ci­sion to close the school per­ma­nently be­came a re­al­ity.

Deloitte, which took over the ad­min­is­tra­tion for the spe­cial needs school af­ter it went into liq­ui­da­tion in July, said dis­cus­sions with the re­main­ing prospec­tive pur­chaser have come to a halt.

Mother Amanda Burgess, who has cam­paigned against the clo­sure, said: “What­ever the fu­ture holds for us all, I know we tried our ut­most to save the school.

“It is just a real shame the peo­ple re­spon­si­ble didn’t do the same two years ago when they should have lis­tened and acted.

“They will have to live with what they have done and the chaos and heart­break they have caused. I am also dis­gusted with the lack of sup­port there was from the gov­ern­ment, MPs and Bucks County Coun­cil to save Penn School.

“This is a loss not just for our chil­dren, but for all the fu­ture chil­dren who will have nowhere to be ed­u­cated. Just when will this ero­sion of pro­vi­sion and ser­vices for spe­cial needs chil­dren and adults stop?”

Lee Man­ning, from Deloitte, said fi­nan­cial, le­gal and prac­ti­cal hur­dles could not be over­come in such a short time frame needed to save the school.

“Ev­ery­body in­volved in the man­age­ment and fund­ing of Penn School is bit­terly dis­ap­pointed that a sale could not be achieved to pre­serve the school as a go­ing con­cern,” he said.

“We hope that the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, key lo­cal author­i­ties and par­ents will con­tinue to work to­gether to en­sure that all the for­mer pupils find suit­able schools as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Bucks County Coun­cil have said they will con­tinue work to find place­ments for chil­dren who are from the county.

But for other fam­i­lies, the prospect of find­ing a school to suit their needs in or­der for them to start this term re­mains a daunt­ing prospect.

Par­ent Stephanie Stacey said: “They have to take par­ents’ and pupils’ views into ac­count, but it is very hard when the choice may ap­pear to be the place­ment on of­fer or no place­ment.

“Many of the stu­dents would do bet­ter in a school fur­ther away, but that would re­quire board­ing and many of the stu­dents and their par­ents don’t want them to board. It’s a catch-22 sit­u­a­tion.”

The pri­vately-funded school an­nounced its abrupt clo­sure in July, spark­ing an online cam­paign led by par­ents and teach­ers.

Since then, the Save Penn School cam­paign has seen sup­port from all over the world, in­clud­ing for­mer Bucks res­i­dent and ac­tor James Cor­den and ra­dio host Ken Bruce.

Money raised for the cam­paign will now go to an al­ter­na­tive spe­cial needs ed­u­ca­tion provider to be se­lected at a later date.

Sue Clark, whose 13year-old daugh­ter Re­becca is a pupil, said: “Re­becca has autism and it has taken 12 years for us to find a school which sup­ports her.”

Seventy-one staff re­dun­dan­cies were an­nounced last month.

MP for High Wy­combe Steve Baker’s of­fice was con­tacted but he was not avail­able to com­ment.

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