Meadowbank School: Rethink plans to close this specialist Cardiff school

April 26, 2016 at 4:26 PM

In March 3,500 people signed a petition to Cardiff Council over plans to close Meadowbank specialist speech and language school in Gabalfa in Cardiff North.

The plans would currently see the school, which has helped so many pupils over the years, closed in August 2017.

This school offers a lifeline for pupils with speech and language problems and it is the only council-run school specialising in speech and language problems in England and Wales. 

Read more on the protest by parents to save Meadowbank School

Read my submission on Meadowbank School

Having spoken to parents and attended the public meeting at the school about the closure plans in March I have called on Cardiff Council to rethink plans for the closure of Meadowbank to enable the school to stay open and save the expertise it offers

I am writing in response to the proposal to change the arrangements for provision for children with speech and language difficulties and in particular, the proposal to close Meadowbank School in August 2017. I understand  it is the only special school of its kind in Wales, which provides day education for primary aged pupils who have statements of special educational needs for their severe and specific speech, language and communication needs. I am aware that many parents of children attending the school are fighting to save the school from closure as they feel that mainstream education is not a suitable alternative for their children and I can understand why they are concerned.

I am aware that pupils will be offered a transfer to the specialist resource base at Allensbank Primary School or a supported programme of reintegration into their local mainstream school. However, Meadowbank  is a centre of excellence, with very small classes, and specialist staff and this has been extremely helpful to the pupils, many of whom have improved their speech and language abilities and as a result they have been able to make friends and become more sociable, whilst this was not possible when they attended mainstream schools. Parents have told me how their children’s lives have been transformed after a period in Meadowbank. 

I am concerned at the loss of expertise which the closure of Meadowbank would entail. At a public meeting for parents recently, when this was raised, they were told that the teachers could be retrained or possibly redeployed but this seems an appalling waste of expertise, which will surely still be needed under the new system. I understand that speech and language problems are growing. Surely we must keep the expertise of Meadowbank staff in these circumstances.

The reason given for the recommendation by officers to close Meadowbank in August 2017 is what is described as “a significant decline in pupil numbers”. However, I have heard that many parents describe the school as “Cardiff’s best-kept secret”, as they feel it is not sufficiently publicised. Many paid for private sessions for their children with a speech and language therapist and only then learned from the private tutor about Meadowbank, while they had never before been told of the existence of the specialist school. They therefore feel that it is possible that there are still many other children who could benefit from such a facility, if they knew about it.

I have concerns that schools not specialising in speech and language therapy will not be able to meet the needs of the children. Please can the local authority rethink its proposals and find some way of enabling this school to continue its excellent work.