Axe looks set to fall on Ash Villa School

Authorities are to consult on the closure of a special school near Sleaford linked to a unit for teenage children with severe and complex mental health issues.

Ash Villa School and child and adolescent unit, looks set to close for good. EMN-200128-104552001
Ash Villa School and child and adolescent unit, looks set to close for good. EMN-200128-104552001

Ash Villa at Greylees is a specialist residential care unit for up to 13 young people aged 13 to 18.

According to Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, the unit was regularly only half full due to the success of its community mental health services.

Jane Marshall, Director of Strategy, Planning and Partnerships explained that the Trust had been working on a new care model for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Lincolnshire and realised that the in-patient unit at Ash Villa would not meet some of the new standards required by NHS England, such as being linked to other mental health services. Transport links were poor for emergency response and family visits.

She said a new preferred system sees a shift to more children being cared for at home with support in the community. It was due to be trialled this year, but due to pressures on staff recruitment at Ash Villa, particularly doctors, the decision was made to temporarily close the unit in October and bring forward the pilot of the new care model, using staff from Ash Villa.

Ms Marshall said: “We have been able to reduce the number of children and young people in hospital, enabling young people to stay better connected with their family and friends whilst they receive specialist support for their mental health. At the end of the trial in October 2020, the new care model will be evaluated and a decision will be made whether it will be continued.”

The Ash Villa unit will not reopen due to the new quality standards expected.

Ash Villa School was based on the site with the county council providing education services for children in the unit. It was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in 2017.

Heather Sandy, Interim Director for Education, said the permanent closure of the unit will mean no pupils will be attending in future, so they are to consult on potential closure of the school, with a decision expected in July.

Ms Sandy said there are currently three in teaching and three non-teaching staff. “We will work closely with those involved to explore alternative opportunities using their skills and experience and avoiding redundancy wherever possible.”