A WAR of words over education provision for pupils facing exclusion from schools has boiled over as a council rejected numerous impassioned appeals to delay cuts to a county’s pupil referral units.

Leaders of North Yorkshire County Council said they were confident the authority could defend any legal challenge ahead of members of the Conservative-run council approving a plan for of £1.5m cuts across “high needs” provision.

The vote marked the climax of months of battling by staff, parents and pupils at the county’s five units, and in particular by those at The Grove Academy in Harrogate.

Natalie Astwood, whose 14-year-old daughter attends the Harrogate unit, told a packed council chamber that campaigners were being forced into take legal action against the council to fight “injustice” having not been listened to by the authority.

She said: “Across the country legal action over matters such as this has proven successful in the vast majority of cases.

“It is naive to assume that children such as my daughter will be able to reintegrate and survive in mainstream and talk if virtual schooling for these complex kids who need guidance and nurture is quite frankly ridiculous.”

The authority’s education boss Councillor Patrick Mulligan said diverting funding towards reducing the number of pupils being excluded was vital.

He told the meeting: “We are determined to reshape the model of alternative provision so that schools can access alternative provision at an earlier stage to both meet the needs of the young person but also significantly reduce exclusions.”

Referring to the legal challenge Cllr Mulligan added: “We are confident in our processes in our consultation.”

Following months of criticism over the cost-cutting move in which the council was accused of “concocting a fantasy”, the authority’s deputy leader Councillor Gareth Dadd hit back, labelling some of the campaigners’ claims as “outrageous” and “disgraceful”.

He said: “We have taken our responsibilities, moral and legal, very seriously. I can assure you we will fulfil those said responsibilities and duties with the proposals we have, not only because we have to, but because we feel passionately it is right financially, but more importantly for the welfare and outcomes of present and future young people in need.”