Couple's battle for special school

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A LEIGH couple are battling to save one of the borough's best known special schools.

Loving parents Graham and Vivian Bradshaw say they fear for their daughter's future if Mere Oaks in Standish closes under the Metro's controversial review programme.

They have now joined other parents in forming the 'Save Mere Oaks' action group organising a huge protest petition and whose campaign emblem is a simple yellow ribbon.

Wigan Council are currently consulting over the possible closure of a number of special schools under their new 'inclusion' programme which seeks to educate special needs pupils in mainstream schools.

Education chief Coun Brian Wilson emphasises that this is to improve the social development of disabled youngsters – not save money.

But the Mosley Common mum and dad, also leading members of the Mere Oak Association, say they can't value the special school's work too highly.

And that the two-and-a-half years that five- year-old daughter Megan Louise has spent at the school has transformed her life.

Its likely that a mainstream school choice would be a lot nearer home but they are certain that it would be the wrong choice for her.

She will only get one chance in life, they point put, and they are determined to make sure it's the correct one for her.

Graham explained: "Our daughter suffers from a significant delay in the whole of her development although this has a bigger effect on her motor skills than cognitive abilities.

"Since starting at Mere Oaks she has really achieved a lot and has made lots of friends.

"Dr Downes, her doctor from Leigh's Mary Sheridan Centre says that Mere Oaks is the best school that she could be in for Megan's needs.

"Megan could not manage in a mainstream school as she cannot walk or sit up properly and in a mainstream school she would be knocked over and bullied because of her condition and this goes for all her friends at school, they just couldn't manage."

His wife Vivian, who is also disabled, pointed out: "Megan loves going to school and she is very happy there.

"Closing Mere Oaks would be a big upheaval and it would be very distressing for her. She would change from a very confident, outgoing and happy little girl to a shy, unhappy withdrawn little girl.

"So what we say to councillors is please leave Mere Oaks as it is and give all special needs children a good start in life and keep them happy and not miserable. They deserve it."

The special needs education review suggests that 'over-crowded' Tanfield (Hindley) and Two Porches (Atherton) plus structurally lacking Mere Oaks, may close.

They are suggesting moving upwards of 300 'moderate learning difficulties/physically disabled' pupils currently being taught in the three special schools into existing mainstream school classes.

This would mean re-organising the service to leave special schools at Green Hall (Atherton), Montrose (Pemberton) and Brookfield (Hindley) and specialist units at Meadowbank (Atherton), Scot Lane (Newtown) and a third centre serving central Wigan, plus Hindley Green Language Unit.

Pupils with complex medical needs would be taught at Hope (Marus Bridge), Hindley Sure Start, a newly-built 30-pupil 2.7m special primary plus a base at an un-named existing mainstream secondary school in conjunction with Wigan and Leigh College.

Children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties currently taught at Willow Grove Primary (Ashton), Kingshill Secondary (Tyldesley) and Highlea Secondary (Boothstown) will also see the service reviewed.