The Parks Special Nursery School in Oakham is to close, following a two-year review which has concluded the provision is no longer viable.
The Parks is a registered nursery school located within Oakham C of E Primary Academy but maintained by Rutland County Council. The Parks offer includes support for children with moderate and severe learning difficulties, as well as support for speech, language and communication, autism and physical disabilities. All children currently being taught at The Parks are of primary school (reception) age. There are no children accessing a special nursery place this academic year and the Council is not aware of any children of nursery age needing specialist nursery provision from September 2024.
Following a review of The Parks by a group of independent SEND (Special Education Needs and Disabilities) professionals, which took place over two and a half years, it was identified that there were issues with the operational sustainability of the provision. Places at the Parks cost substantially more than SEND support in mainstream settings and the nursery has very small pupil numbers, making it increasingly unviable.
Cabinet on 12 September 2023 agreed to consult on the future of The Parks, following a process set out by the Department for Education (DfE). Consultation opened following the public launch on 1 November and closed at midnight on Sunday 3 December.
Cabinet met again on Thursday 11 January 2024 to consider the outcome of the consultation and voted unanimously to approve closure of the Parks Special Nursery School from the end of the academic year (August 2024).
“We have taken the difficult decision to close The Parks Special Nursery because the provision is no longer viable. This is not a snap decision or something we take lightly. The Parks was subject to an independent review by SEND professionals, which took place over two years. This review identified issues with the sustainability of the provision and informed the proposals that were shared in November, with a full public consultation taking place thereafter. Having listened to feedback received at the start of the consultation, we enlisted the help of an independent reviewer to read and report on the responses that were submitted. The independent reviewer has carefully considered all the comments received and found nothing to indicate that the situation at The Parks could be changed.
“Mainstream schools and Early Years settings in Rutland are already providing high-quality care and support for children with additional needs. The Council’s Inclusion team is supporting more than 30 nursery-age children with additional needs and all of these children are successfully maintaining their education in mainstream settings. Rutland’s wider school support programme for children with SEND has also been inspected and praised by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.”
“This decision does not mean a cut to services or funding for children with special educational needs and disabilities. Funding that would have gone to The Parks will be used to further increase and improve SEND support in mainstream settings across the County. This includes expanding the Dedicated Special Provision at Oakham C of E Primary.”
Councillor Tim Smith, Cabinet Member for Children and Families
The agenda and reports for Rutland County Council’s Cabinet meeting on Thursday 11 January can be read on our Meetings page.
This includes a copy of Maureen Morris’ final report on The Parks Special Nursery Consultation, together with an appendix containing all responses submitted during the consultation period. Responses have been anonymised to protect the identity of those who took part.
Minutes from the meeting will be published within 10 days of the meeting date.