Struggle without support staff

19th May 2006 at 01:00
There is another side to Cambridge apart from ancient universities and hi-tech industries.

Kings Hedges is an area of low incomes and high numbers of single-parent families.

"It's the part of Cambridge nobody knows about," said Claire Smalley, deputy head of Kings Hedges primary.

"Unemployment is fairly high, and a lot of people work as cleaners or bedmakers at the university. There is a tendency for families in the area to be related to each other, so you often get children in the same class with different mothers, but the same father."

Kings Hedges is a predominantly white school, with just under 10 per cent of children coming from the local Bangladeshi community. More than half its 430 children have special needs. "In reception this year we have three children who would previously have been in a special school," Ms Smalley said.

"One boy is in a wheelchair, and has had a tracheotomy, a girl was born with part of her bowel missing and needs to wear nappies and another child has very severe autism."

However, lack of funds has meant that six of the school's teaching assistants who left this year have not been replaced.

"Up to Easter every class had a TA," Ms Smalley said. "Now there are no TAs in our two Year 4 classes, even though more than half the children have special needs. This makes it more difficult for teachers to give some children special support and avoid the others losing out.

"We also have a lot of child protection issues, just like schools in London. Yet when it comes to funding we are treated as a rural school, and end up losing out."

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