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Cash-strapped Sheffield special needs school to close hydrotherapy pool

Seven Hills School
Seven Hills School
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Staff at a Sheffield special needs school say they are planning to close a specialist hydrotherapy pool which is just five years old due to ‘ongoing financial pressures’.

Parents at Seven Hills School, in Granville Road, in the grounds of All Saints’ Catholic High School, have been told that the school now intends to convert the area into a specialist therapeutic leisure space for students.

A letter on the school website states: “After receiving our budget and, following talks with the local authority, it is apparent that our financial position is unlikely to change in the coming years.

“We have limited options around making further cuts to alleviate the financial pressure we are under and we are not able to make any savings through staffing changes.

We have carefully considered other options around managing the swimming pool, but have been unable to find a satisfactory solution to the situation that would provide fully inclusive benefits for Seven Hills students.”

But the move could leave up to 400 youngsters with nowhere to have swimming lessons - as the move will leave the Shoals Swim Club without a full-time base.

Parent Lisa Siddall, 38, from Woodhouse, takes her five-year-old son Luka to Shoals because she said she feels it is important that he is confident in the water.

“I take Luka to Shoals because they are so good, and there’s just no comparison with any of the other swimming clubs in the area - they just don’t come close, so for me it’s devastating,” she said.

“I used to be a caretaker at Seven Hills and I also seen the benefit the pool has for students - if it goes they will have to travel off-site in mini-buses. I just don’t see how a gym is going to be more beneficial for children with disabilities.”

Seven Hills headteacher Clive Rockliffe said: “Despite private lettings over the last few years, the pool continues to run at a net loss which has to be financed from our school’s budget. If we continued on this course we would be faced with the prospect of closing the pool without the possibility of developing it into a more usable space.

“We carefully considered using the services of third party operator to make the pool self-financing but to achieve this would have meant largely excluding our students, all of who have learning and physical disabilities, and this was unacceptable.

“We do not have a gym or large indoor space for PE or other physical activities. As we have money set aside for a modest redevelopment, we intend to convert it into a suite of therapeutic and physical development spaces including a smaller, more cost-effective hydrotherapy pool, rebound therapy facilities and other sensory provision.

“Our discussions about these are in their early stages, so we are not able to provide costs for these at present.

“Seven Hills is, like many schools locally and nationally, faced with cuts to funding that have compelled us to make difficult decisions in order to maintain the quality of our outstanding provision. This has meant that swimming lessons for Seven Hills’ pupils have not been able to take place this year due to the cost of the higher levels of staffing necessary.

“In the present financial landscape, to continue to sustain a significant annual loss of funds in order to continue a private letting would not be in the best interests of pupils’ achievements and the school’s sustainability.”