Councillors will decide on the future of two base units for hearing-impaired children tomorrow after controversial plans to close them.

The children, family, and education committee (CFE) will meet on March 14 following proposals to close the hearing impairment (HI) bases at both Rushy Meadows School, in Rushy Meadow Lane, and Overton Grange School in Stanley Road.

A new consultation was launched on January 15 following a meeting – which included parents, councillors and MPs – regarding the situation amid ‘unprecedented’ funding cuts.

Richard Nash, Sutton Council’s acting strategic director for children’s services and people’s directorate, said: “On January 4, the committee approved that officers should consult on the possible closure of the units for hearing impaired children and young people at both Rushy Meadow and Overton Grange schools.

“This was in the context of both schools having long-term spare capacity within their 14 place units.

“A number of representations were made to the committee on January 4 about the proposals to close the HI bases from individual parents as well as other individual stakeholders.

“Following the meeting on January 4, discussions took place with the two schools as well as the National Deaf Children’s Society to discuss the proposals in more detail.”

The consultation was sent out to all schools, parents of pupils in the bases, the Sutton Parents Form and ‘other interested stakeholders’ before it was closed on February 12.

A total of 65 people – out of 79 – favoured no change to the HI base at Rushy Meadow, with 14 preferring a reduction in size to more appropriately match requirements, while no one wanted it to be closed.

Meanwhile, seven people – out of eight – wanted a size reduction of the HI base at Overton Grange to match demand, one wanted no change, and no one wanted it to be closed.

Mr Nash added: “Changing provision for children with special educational needs is a complex process, particularly when the providers are, as in both these cases, academies.

“Although the council is responsible for commissioning places, the funding for the school comes via the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), who fund the school direct, but who then deduct the amount for each commissioned place from the council’s Dedicated Schools Grant.

“As part of the process for reducing commissioned places the local authority is obliged to inform the ESFA whether or not the school agrees to the proposed reduction.

“If there is no agreement, the ESFA does not – usually – accept the case for reduction and continues to fund the higher number of places, regardless of the need.

“This in effect makes it difficult for the local authority to secure changes – particularly when the proposals are controversial.”

The CFE is recommended to approve that both bases remain open with a reduced number of places while this is reviewed annually and adapted in future years.