Families of autistic children desperate for Hope Lodge School in Southampton to stay open

Daily Echo: Hope Lodge School in Southampton Hope Lodge School in Southampton

“FAMILIES will suffer. They are cutting a vital lifeline.”

That was the message from angry parents after the Hampshire Autistic Society (HAS) announced that they would be closing the county’s only specialist school for autistic children next year.

Despite promises from bosses that the much-loved school would have two more years before its doors would close for good, parents and staff were given the devastating news that they would have just 12 months to prepare for the future.

The U-turn at the end of a lengthy consultation with parents has left them fearing for their children’s futures. They say they are unaware of another school that can provide the same level of specialist support for children with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

But HAS bosses insist that the decision was taken with “a heavy heart”

with the closure blamed on lack of demand and financial pressures.

Tim Harpham, a school governor whose 19-year-old son has been at Hope Lodge for seven years, believes the school has been a Godsend to parents over the past 40 years and has vowed to continue the fight to save it from closure.

He said: “I believe in this school and the parents need this school. I am lucky that my son has benefitted from the service but I am angry about this decision and we will fight to save it for those still at the school and those children who will need it in the future.

“Hope Lodge is a real lifeline for families who will now suffer.

“These children should be pushed to reach their full potential but without this school they will be overlooked and their problems will get worse and worse.”

Blame for the closure has been placed on a lack of referrals due to Government policy of including children with specialist needs increasingly within mainstream education.

The result has been a reduced need for schools like Hope Lodge, which currently has 26 students, 15 of which are under 16.

The school also made an “unsustainable” loss of £475,000 at the end of the financial year in March.

When Hope Lodge closes next summer, the society plans to open a Life Skills College which will provide education, life skills and board for 16 to 25-year-olds at their community resource centre in Bassett.

Most of the Hope Lodge pupils will be old enough to attend the college by 2013 if they choose.

Bosses at the society, whose chief executive is Andrew Monaghan, believe the Life Skills College will meet a demand for further education for those with specialist needs, while providing them with vital life skills that will help them to lead a more independent life.

They also said it would be much cheaper, by employing fewer teachers and using their own site.

Robin Gow, head of finance, said: “The society recognises that this has been a very difficult time for everyone affected.

“Now the final decision has been made, we will work through the coming year to deliver the necessary transitions to support our students, their families and our staff teams.

“We would like to reiterate that this decision to close Hope Lodge was taken with a heavy heart.

“We are doing this because we have to but at the same time, the Life Skills College is a really exciting prospect.”

He added that the society was “hopeful” of retaining all staff affected – about 60 – by offering them alternative employment within the society.

Comments (5)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

12:23pm Mon 25 Jun 12

Inform Al says...

If the decision was made with a heavy heart then it was obviously not the right decision and more should be done to finance the school to enable it not only to continue its very necessary work, but to also start the new life skills initiative. I have a friend who's severely affected autistic son is now married and in full time work, trier as he is he could not have got there without a lot of assistance.
If the decision was made with a heavy heart then it was obviously not the right decision and more should be done to finance the school to enable it not only to continue its very necessary work, but to also start the new life skills initiative. I have a friend who's severely affected autistic son is now married and in full time work, trier as he is he could not have got there without a lot of assistance. Inform Al
  • Score: 0

4:23pm Mon 25 Jun 12

ohmywell says...

Lack of demand and Financial pressure. From the Tory Government. You get what you vote for. This is disgusting and another closure with yet more to come.
Lack of demand and Financial pressure. From the Tory Government. You get what you vote for. This is disgusting and another closure with yet more to come. ohmywell
  • Score: 0

4:41pm Mon 25 Jun 12

Shoong says...

ohmywell wrote:
Lack of demand and Financial pressure. From the Tory Government. You get what you vote for. This is disgusting and another closure with yet more to come.
'Lack of demand and Financial pressure.'

Well, you said it.

'The school also made an “unsustainable” loss of £475,000 at the end of the financial year in March.'

They said it.

You can't keep something like this open if it's bleeding money, it doesn't help anyone, let alone the students.

I'm assuming of course, you read the whole article.

Doesn't sound like it and just went for the cheap shot.
[quote][p][bold]ohmywell[/bold] wrote: Lack of demand and Financial pressure. From the Tory Government. You get what you vote for. This is disgusting and another closure with yet more to come.[/p][/quote]'Lack of demand and Financial pressure.' Well, you said it. 'The school also made an “unsustainable” loss of £475,000 at the end of the financial year in March.' They said it. You can't keep something like this open if it's bleeding money, it doesn't help anyone, let alone the students. I'm assuming of course, you read the whole article. Doesn't sound like it and just went for the cheap shot. Shoong
  • Score: 0

5:16pm Mon 25 Jun 12

tootle says...

Nothing to do with the current Government, though doubt they are helping. Inclusion has been the buzzword for many years(probably before some of them were born) and has a lot to answer for. This school catered for a very small minority of children on the Autistic spectrum, maybe if they had put their heads above the parapet, actively recruited students and provided outreach to ASD children in mainstream it would still be a viable option. There is no simple answer as to whether this school should or could remain open.
Nothing to do with the current Government, though doubt they are helping. Inclusion has been the buzzword for many years(probably before some of them were born) and has a lot to answer for. This school catered for a very small minority of children on the Autistic spectrum, maybe if they had put their heads above the parapet, actively recruited students and provided outreach to ASD children in mainstream it would still be a viable option. There is no simple answer as to whether this school should or could remain open. tootle
  • Score: 0

11:01pm Mon 25 Jun 12

Inform Al says...

tootle wrote:
Nothing to do with the current Government, though doubt they are helping. Inclusion has been the buzzword for many years(probably before some of them were born) and has a lot to answer for. This school catered for a very small minority of children on the Autistic spectrum, maybe if they had put their heads above the parapet, actively recruited students and provided outreach to ASD children in mainstream it would still be a viable option. There is no simple answer as to whether this school should or could remain open.
Unfortunately not all autistic children come under the same circumstances, one of my grandchildren has asbergers but is capable of gaining from mainstream education with 1 to 1 help. A friends child was so severe a case that he needed educating at a specialist establishment. It is the latter class of children that will be severely disenfranchised by the closure of this school, and we should be ashamed if we allow this to happen.
[quote][p][bold]tootle[/bold] wrote: Nothing to do with the current Government, though doubt they are helping. Inclusion has been the buzzword for many years(probably before some of them were born) and has a lot to answer for. This school catered for a very small minority of children on the Autistic spectrum, maybe if they had put their heads above the parapet, actively recruited students and provided outreach to ASD children in mainstream it would still be a viable option. There is no simple answer as to whether this school should or could remain open.[/p][/quote]Unfortunately not all autistic children come under the same circumstances, one of my grandchildren has asbergers but is capable of gaining from mainstream education with 1 to 1 help. A friends child was so severe a case that he needed educating at a specialist establishment. It is the latter class of children that will be severely disenfranchised by the closure of this school, and we should be ashamed if we allow this to happen. Inform Al
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree