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Dundee councillor hits out at plans to close special education centres in city

Councillor Laurie Bidwell.
Councillor Laurie Bidwell.

Labour education spokesman Laurie Bidwell has savaged Dundee City Council over plans to close three special education centres.

The council published a report on Monday night which confirmed that a trio of off-site education facilities will be merged into one, resulting in a 44% cut to places available to pupils.

Plans to merge the city’s Balerno, Connnect Five and Castle Park Education Centres into a single facility at Rockwell Primary School have been on the cards since late last year.

The three facilities host children who struggle with “complex social, emotional and behavioural needs”.

Aside from revealing that places will be cut, the consultation also confirms that the move will save the council more than half a million pounds.

Just £140,000 of that money will be reinvested in secondary education however.

Labour councillor Laurie Bidwell has now branded the move “another short-term cut which will cause long-term damage.”

Mr Bidwell has called on Dundee City Council’s Convener of Children and Families Service Stewart Hunter to publicly justify the decision.

He told The Courier: “Councillor Stewart Hunter needs to tell us why he supports the reduction in cash for some of the most vulnerable young people in our city?

“I have never been against the idea of finding better premises for these education centres-two of which are based in buildings previously identified for closure.

“Despite all the warm words in the Council’s Report, it is difficult to believe that support for these pupils and their schools will be improved if overall resources are so drastically reduced.

“Most of the saving is coming from reductions in the highly skilled staff who currently work in these three education centres.

“This is another example of how services for services for children and families in Dundee are being reduced by cuts passed on by the Holyrood Government. This is another short-term cut which will cause long-term damage.”

In response to Mr Bidwell’s assertions, Mr Hunter, said: “Councillor Bidwell’s comments are quite frankly bizarre considering he has attended the public consultation meeting and elected member briefing sessions.

“I can only question why he has made so many misleading and inaccurate statements.

“The staff at our offsite centres do an amazing job and have made a huge difference in the lives of the young people.

“However, I firmly believe that we should be trying to help them at a much earlier stage so that their lives are turned round before offsite becomes an option.

“For some young people this won’t be enough and therefore there will still be a role for offsite to play. This is a part of our proposal.”

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