THE CITY’S only pupil referral unit for the most disadvantaged and troubled youngsters in the city is axing jobs and student places in the face of major budget cuts.
The Harbour School, whose 2011/12 budget has been reduced by seven per cent compared with last year, has just ratified proposals to scrap more than 14 full-time posts across four of its five sites including teachers, outreach workers, admin staff, a director and a deputy head.
Places available for students will also go this September. At the Fratton site, which offers full-time places to GCSE students suffering behavioural, emotional or social problems, the previous number of 80 places will be reduced to just 40.
At the Cosham site, which caters for 11 to 16-year-olds with medical and emotional needs such as teenage pregnancy, the number of places available will be cut from 55 to 40.
Other sites affected include the outreach service at Milton that visits schools and families, which will lose the equivalent of one and a half full-time teachers and support staff.
Sally Garrett, headteacher, said: ‘The cuts are extremely disappointing as we are already working extremely hard on a tight budget. But we are confident our proposed new arrangements will meet learners’ needs.
‘In an ideal world we would not be reducing staff who have done a fantastic job to help so many young people achieve in spite of their difficult circumstances. We are all very sad.’
Ms Garrett admitted her school would be more dependent on funding from school referrals and that there would be a greater emphasis on reintegrating students in mainstream schools following shorter spells at Harbour.
Chris Pickett, senior steward at the local branch of Unison, said: ‘The most disadvantaged in our society are being let down in a big way. The Harbour School is extremely specialised and helps children with serious problems and needs, which no other school in Portsmouth can cater for.
‘These youngsters are in danger of being left with inadequate provision, especially as the cuts are set to get even worse.’
Since it opened in 2007 Harbour has worked with 1,000 children on site and provided outreach support to more than 3,000 children. Of those, they have reintegrated 200 students into mainstream schools.