PROTESTS were held outside the Hampshire County Council offices in Winchester over ‘potential changes’ to an adolescent psychiatric unit.

A recent internal consultation could lead to 13 teachers at Leigh House Hospital being replaced with “unqualified tutors to save money”, according to protest organiser Johanna Keeler.

These claims have since been denied by the council.

Johanna grew up locally and is an ex-patient of the hospital in Alresford Road, which provides treatment for people aged between 12 and 18.

She was admitted in the build-up to her GCSEs and could not attend her secondary school, Henry Beaufort, so was taught in the hospital’s education unit.

Johanna said: “I can’t understand why they are looking to change the unit, it’s wonderful - the teachers should be rewarded. It should be used as an exemplar facility for others alike to copy and take advice from, but instead it has become a financial concern and that is all the council see.

“I took my exams after being taught by the teachers there, and the support I had was phenomenal. Why change something that works perfectly? I couldn’t be where I am now, studying at Exeter University, without those people.”

But Steve Crocker, director of children’s services at the council, claims the consultation is only looking to change current staff’s contracts of employment. He said: “We have not proposed at any point to withdraw the education provision at Leigh House nor to reduce what is currently offered. This includes supporting young people to follow their school’s curriculum and continued access to GCSE and A-level programmes.

“Our objective is to determine how we best invest in these services, not to reduce them. We are working with those individuals and their representative bodies to explore all options to mitigate the impact and transition to the new model which we believe will better support an ‘all year’ curriculum offer.”

He added: “We are committed to both maintaining and extending the education opportunities for vulnerable young people.”

In the hospital’s most recent CQC (Care Quality Commission) examination, the education department was reported to be “boasting outstanding outcomes for the young people using the education provision.”

The protest on Friday was attended by teachers from both the unit and her old school. One teacher from Leigh House, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “With all due respect, the tutors they are proposing to replace us with will have minimal qualifications and it is unlikely they will be able to provide suitable learning.”

“Our department can’t be downgraded. It’s all about teaching like a mainstream school and helping those in need get on with their education.”

Miriam Colley, a drama teacher at Henry Beaufort, who also helps vulnerable students at the school, said: “I’m here at the protest because young people with severe mental health issues need to have bedrock security of their education.

“By maintaining the unit at Leigh House, education will not be an issue for local youth.”

An online petition has been created on ‘’, which currently has more than 2,600 signatures.

Results from the consultation will be released in the coming weeks.