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Blind pupils' parents plan own free school

By Sevenoaks Chronicle  |  Posted: March 22, 2012

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THE parents of blind and partially-sighted children facing the closure of their school after its numbers fell too low to remain viable are making a bid to open a new Sevenoaks establishment of their own.

A group of mums and dads of youngsters taught at the Royal London Society for Blind People's (RLSB) headquarters of Dorton House, Seal, hope to join campaigners for a Christian secondary school.

They have earmarked the former Knole Academy East site, previously the Wildernesse School, in Seal Hollow Road.

Their bid follows the RLSB's announcement that Dorton House School for five to 16-year-olds will close next summer.

As the Chronicle revealed last May, the Wildernesse Avenue facility has been under threat for a number of years.

The RLSB says the complex medical needs many pupils have cannot be handled to the best of students' interests, although the Dorton nursery and the college for 16 to 25-year-olds will remain open.

Dr Tom Pey, chief executive of RLSB, said only about six students will be affected by the closure and the RLSB can now focus on one-to-one and mobile visits.

But Tony Negus, whose 10-year-old son Zac attends Dorton House, said: "There is nowhere else for these children to go, so we've had to set up a group for our own free school, hopefully as part of the Christian school bid.

"It's still at a very provisional stage."

Zac, of Pinehurst, Sevenoaks, was born three months premature and suffered a brain haemorrhage at two days old, leaving him blind and in a wheelchair. His twin brother Max died a week after birth.

Managing director Mr Negus, whose youngest son Elliot attends Otford Primary School, added: "It took us nine months to get Zac into Dorton House through the council and he's been there since he was two. It's all he knows.

"Zac doesn't communicate well and the staff there are all well-trained.

"Inclusion in mainstream education is not possible. We have no other options but to create a school ourselves."

Bill Lattimer, of the Christian school initiative, said: "We've been in touch with the parents and obviously we're happy to help if we can."

A spokesman for Kent County Council said they were aware of the situation.

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