Petition against feared closure of unit for autistic pupils at Norwich academy nears 600 signatures

Open Academy in Norwich.

Open Academy in Norwich. - Credit: Archant

A petition hoping to halt the potential closure of a base for autistic pupils in Norwich is nearing 600 signatures.

The specialist resource base (SRB) at Open Academy, in Norwich, could face closure after the Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust, which runs the school, launched a consultation on its future.

Though no final decision has been made, it has sparked outcry from parents of pupils at the base - which has places for 10 children with autism - who say the mix of specialist support and normality of a mainstream education is a rare opportunity for their children.

Eighteen-year-old Owen Walker, from Gorleston, was a pupil at the SRB from 2010 until he left for college in 2015.

He has now set up an online petition - which has attracted more than 580 signatures - against any potential closure.

He said: 'Before I started the Open Academy SRB I could not deal with a mainstream school environment in any way at all, because of my autism spectrum disorder and heightened sensory issues which come with Aspergers Syndrome,' he said.

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'The staff in the SRB gave me a great amount of support and so did my peers in the base. To me for the five years I was there, it was a home away from home, my second family. I made friends for life that I am still very close too even now.'

He said without the support of the centre he 'would have never got as far as I have in life' and that seeing other children miss out on the opportunity would 'not be fair'.

DNEAT has said: 'We fully understand that this may be an unsettling time for parents and we want to provide as much support as we can. We encourage parents and carers to contact their child's Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) coordinator who can support them if they wish to discuss the consultation with the local authority.'

The SRB is one of 31 at various schools around Norfolk, but only four are autism bases at secondary schools.

If you would like to sign the petition, click here.

What are your thoughts on the potential closure? Email