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The leaders of the seven local councils, the North of Tyne Mayor and Northumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner encourage people to work together to move out of Tier 3 as quickly and as safely as possible.

Consultation on changes to the Sensory Services Team

We are proposing to strengthen how we support children with sensory impairment so that we can better help them in a range of settings and continue to meet statutory duties under Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) legislation.

We have been reviewing the service in response to changes to government guidance, feedback from the families we work with, as well as the need to make savings due to the unprecedented financial challenges the council continues to face. The changes would include significantly increasing the training for school teachers so that they can offer a better service for children with sensory impairment in schools in their local communities. Support will continue to be offered in line with guidance from the National Sensory Impairment Partnership. 


The Sensory Team provides a service to all children and young people (aged 0-18) in County Durham who have visual and/or hearing impairment and up to 25 for young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan. 

Most children who receive support from the Sensory Team do so in their local schools. 

Currently, some children with the most profound hearing or sight loss have been placed within three mainstream schools, which are provided with support from the Sensory Team. This is called Enhanced Mainstream Provision (EMP).

These are:

  • Durham Gilesgate Primary School (for children with a hearing impairment)
  • Belmont Primary School  (for children with visual impairment)
  • Belmont Community School (for secondary aged children with either hearing or visual impairment)

However, many families of children with sensory impairment would like their children to be well supported within their local school, with services provided to the schools, rather than placing them into specialist provisions.

What are we proposing?

To improve our service to children and families in their local communities and to increase inclusion in mainstream schools, we propose to:

  • Maintain Enhanced Mainstream Provision at Durham Gilesgate Primary School and Belmont Community School where the majority of families and children who want this option of learning choose to go.
  • Close the Enhanced Mainstream Provision at Belmont Primary School as this has seen a significant fall in number of families using the unit, and then offer the support in local schools
    • Provision for children with hearing impairment at Durham Gilesgate Primary School, and for children of  secondary age will remain unchanged.
    • The closure of the Enhanced Mainstream Provision at Belmont Primary School would allow us to move support to primary school children with visual impairment into their local schools, promoting their inclusion within local communities.
  • Redeploy specialist support workers in the sensory team to focus on pre-school children, those attending Enhanced Mainstream Provision and those learning Braille. 

Where children may receive less direct support from specialist workers, we would ask local schools to provide additional support using the existing Special Educational Needs systems and the financial support currently available.

To ensure we continue to provide the best service possible we would:

  • Increase our programme of training and awareness raising for staff in schools which have pupils with sensory impairment. This would result in children being taught and supported by better trained school staff on a daily basis.
  • Offer an enhanced outreach support package to children who need to learn Braille in their local primary school.
  • Reduce our direct teaching by specialist staff in special schools and focus instead on using coaching and consultation to develop the capacity of school staff to support individual children in their class on a daily basis. 

It is anticipated that these changes will help make savings of around £130,000. There would be no reduction in current staffing levels, with only long term vacant posts deleted.

Have your say

The closing date for comments was 20 April 2018.

Contact us
Sensory Team
03000 264 530
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