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The GFC School in Redfern Avenue, Gillingham, to shut this summer

A football club school for children with behavioural needs is closing as a council moves to integrate children into mainstream education.

Gillingham Football Club managing director Joe Comper announced the club’s school would be closing “in the summer”. He put the news down to a decision by Medway Council.

Gillingham chairman Paul Scally is proud of The GFC School. Picture: Chris Davey
Gillingham chairman Paul Scally is proud of The GFC School. Picture: Chris Davey

He said: “The school will be closing in the summer. Medway Council has chosen other provision for the children and they will be finding alternative places for their education.”

A spokesperson for Medway Council said: “The GFC Independent school is due to close at the end of this academic year.

“The decision was made to close the school, due to new management practices for pupils requiring SEND (Special Educational Needs) and AP (Alternative Provision) placements.

“There are now fewer children and young people being permanently excluded, with additional support, early intervention and reintegration programmes provided by mainstream schools and Alternative Provision providers.

“The service provided by the GFC School has been beneficial in the past and we thank them for working with the council to provide this.”

The council confirmed all children in GFC have alternative placements for September.

The school, in Redfern Avenue, Gillingham, provided space for up to 50 pupils, aged 11-16, who joined after a disrupted education where they were either excluded or at risk of exclusion.

It was owned by Gills chairman Paul Scally.

Speaking after a successful Ofsted inspection five years ago, he said: "It shows that the football and education side works very well together and we have had great success with these youngsters, whose parents and carers have given us the duty to educate and I think the inspector was highly impressed with what he saw.

“These children deserve the same chance as every other child in the world and we are just giving them a little opportunity through a different environment, one of sport and education.”

The club school was paid close to £800,000 for its educational provision by Medway Council, providing a big source of income for the club.

Pupils working out at The GFC School in Gillingham. Picture: Chris Davey
Pupils working out at The GFC School in Gillingham. Picture: Chris Davey

The school has had problems in the past including a poor Ofsted report in 2018. But in its last inspection in 2019 it had started to turn things around and increased its rating from “requires improvement” to “good”, with a few areas being ranked as “outstanding”.

The report said there had been “rapid and sustainable improvements”.

Medway Council has also stopped sending children to VTC Independent School in St Michael's Road, Sittingbourne. Pupils at VTC school, for youngsters with special educational needs, were left in “the lurch”, according to parents, after being told in April to stop going to classes due to “health and safety concerns”.

The school, which says it is in “ongoing discussions with Medway Council to clarify and resolve their concerns”, caters for up to 25 pupils from the ages of 12 to 18 who have behavioural, social, emotional and mental health difficulties.

It has classrooms, workshops – where it provides welding and fabrication classes – as well as communal areas fitted with kitchens.

The news also comes as children moving from SEN primary schools are struggling to find places at suitable secondary schools due to a lack of provision, with one mum calling on her son’s primary to be granted permission to build its own secondary school.

Rainham mum Kelly Adams would like to see Danecourt School in Hotel Road, Gillingham, expanded to include pupils until they are 18 to solve the issue of struggling to find a suitable place.

Gillingham Football Club said it would not be commenting further.

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