St Albans mother fears devastating impact when schools consortium is axed
A CONCERNED mum claims her son will suffer as a result of the closure of an extended schools consortium which has been delivering services to children, young people and families in St Albans for the past four years.
Alison Glassey, of St Albans, has launched a petition pleading with Nicholas Breakspear School in Colney Heath Lane to offer a job to Jenni Murray, a young people and parent support worker at The Alban Way Extended Schools Consortium, whom, she says, has transformed her life and that of her son Blake.
The Alban Way consortium recently announced that its services were coming to an end with funding for the project ending at the end of August.
The consortium is well known among parents in the area for delivering a range of benefits including homework classes, referrals to speech therapy and other services, holiday activities and parenting courses.
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There are seven schools in the consortium including Camp, Colney Heath JMI, Cunningham Hill Infants and Junior, Francis Bacon, Windermere and Nicholas Breakspear, where Blake receives support from Jenni.
Alison has collected about 140 signatures on the petition which calls for adequate support to be given to children with learning difficulties at Nicholas Breakspear School and the employment of Jenni Murray by the school to provide that support.
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Alison, who runs her own cleaning business, approached The Alban Way consortium for help as Blake had been “hard work” at school.
She said: “He has very low self-esteem and has found it quite difficult to focus and stay concentrated from a young age.”
Alison admits she found it difficult constantly being told that her 13 year old was getting into trouble at Nicholas Breakspear.
So eight months ago, when her son was getting detention three times a week, a desperate Alison phoned The Alban Way consortium in tears to ask for help. In stepped Jenni, who has been giving Blake one-to-one support at school when he needs it.
Alison said: “I needed help. This lady truly changed my life. She listens, she cares, she finds the most wonderful solutions that fit the school, me and fits Blake. She talks to me like a friend.”
Alison explained that Jenni taught Blake how to control his emotions at school as a bad mood in the morning could linger throughout the day.
Blake, too, is upset at losing Jenni. The teenager said: “She tells me how to deal with things and do things calmly instead of swearing at everyone.”
Jenni has helped arrange gym sessions for Blake at the local YMCA, and is trying to organise angling lessons for him.
Alison said: “I’m devastated about the funding cuts. Jenni has transformed our lives.”
Asked about her reaction to the petition, a surprised Jenni, of St Albans, said: “I’m overwhelmed by the response; I’m gobsmacked. We have built up a lovely network and there is a need for support workers. I love my job; I’m passionate about the work I do.”
The head teacher of Nicholas Breakspear, Phil Jakszta, described Jenni as a “great friend of the school.”
He added: “She is employed through the consortium and that is being wrapped up and it’s not possible to retain that position as far as the school is concerned.
“Sadly, it’s not within our grasp to help at this stage. But the school has a good record of pastoral care and we do everything we can to support all pupils.”
A Hertfordshire county council spokesman said: “The funding hasn’t been cut, but instead of going via the local authority to schools, the Department for Education has decided that funding will go directly to individual schools.
“Schools in Hertfordshire have agreed that for a transitional period of two years some of the funding will continue to be managed by the local authority and channelled through groups of schools to give them time to set up their own local partnership arrangements and maintain much-valued services to children and families.
“The remainder will go to individual schools in their budget share.
“Basically it is up to individual schools to decide whether they want to continue with extended services.
“There’s evidence that most schools in the county value these services and will keep them going, but it will be their choice.”
County councillor for the Colneys, Chris Brazier, said he would investigate whether he could help provide funding through his locality budget.