Autistic unit go-ahead

John Phillips A PRIMARY school unit for autistic children is to stay open permanently to slash the horrendous cost of teaching pupils outside Barking and Dagenham. John Perry Primary, Charles Road, Dagenham, is to run the unit for up to six children from September, a

John Phillips

A PRIMARY school unit for autistic children is to stay open permanently to slash the "horrendous" cost of teaching pupils outside Barking and Dagenham.

John Perry Primary, Charles Road, Dagenham, is to run the unit for up to six children from September, after its one-year pilot with a specialist teacher and three support assistants, cost just �141,500.

Roger Leighton, headteacher of Sydney Russell School, Parsloes Avenue, Dagenham, which opened a similar unit for secondary pupils two years ago, said places for teaching autistic children outside Barking and Dagenham were horrendously expensive and could cost up to �80,000 each.


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Barking and Dagenham executive agreed on Tuesday to set up the unit after being warned by education chiefs that Trinity special school, Heathway, Dagenham - which caters for children with autism and other disabilities - was under strain owing to a growing population.

Mr Leighton said the new unit would not just help tackle the cash crisis, but also give a mainstream setting for autistic children and give all primary schools access to specialist staff able to detect autistic symptoms.

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He said: "The other benefit in all of this is not just financial.

"First, autistic children feel part of the community if they are in our school. Secondly, we have specialised autism teachers who are immediately available.

"Because autism is a spectrum, all the schools will have students with very, very mild versions of it. It's good to have the expertise."

The Sydney Russell unit has catered for three autistic children this year, is expected to take in six in September and is in addition to the other secondary school facility for autistic pupils at Jo Richardson School, Gale Street, Dagenham.

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