A SPECIAL school in Carmarthenshire which costs £44,000 per pupil per year could be closed, and then reopened under a different designation.
Council chiefs want pupils at Ysgol Rhydygors special school, Carmarthen, to be educated at a pupil referral unit (PRU) instead as part of a shake-up of the way young people with particular needs are taught and supported.
If this proposal is taken forward, the council would establish a PRU at the school site next September. Pupils currently registered at Ysgol Rhydygors would automatically be admitted there.
There are currently 37 pupils at the special school, on Llanstephan Road, Johnstown. Four of them live there, which largely accounts for the high running costs.
All the pupils have a statement of special educational needs or a development plan for social, emotional, and behavioural difficulties.
Details of the proposals were discussed by the council’s education and scrutiny committee.
The report before the committee said: “At the current time, once a child is placed in Rhydygors, the historical evidence suggests that the young person remains there until they are 16 with no further mainstream experience.”
Councillors were told by an education officer that Rhydygors “stands on its own” in terms of its designation and that the aim was to bring it in line with other PRUs in the county.
The officer said results at PRUs were “very successful”, and that they gave pupils a better chance of returning to mainstream education because pupils were “dual registered” with a mainstream school.
“We think we can provide a more equitable service,” she said.
If a decision to discontinue Rhydygors as a special school is taken, a children’s home-respite centre would be established there.
The school’s most recent Estyn inspection in November last year judged it to be adequate but needing improvement in all five inspection areas.
Gareth Morgans, director of education and children’s services, said: “There are lots of strengths in Rhydygors.
“They do lots of activities outside the school. We will ensure that learners do not lose out.”
Referring to the new proposal, he said: “We think they will have a better offer, and more access to qualifications.”
Canolfan Bro Tywi – the PRU for primary aged pupils – and the behaviour support community team which are co-located at the Rhydygors site will not be affected by the proposal.
The council wants to implement a more consistent approach for pupils who require intervention and support in mainstream schools all the way to those needing specialised respite or residential placements.
The aim is to always have a route back into mainstream education, even if it is just for subjects that the pupils respond well to.
The committee approved a recommendation to discontinue Rhydygors as special school, which will now go before the executive board.
If the executive board approves the recommendation next month, a six-week consultation will get underway on January 11.
There would be a further opportunity to express views, prior to a final decision being taken in June.