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EDITIONS
Monday, 8 July, 2002, 23:32 GMT 00:32 UK
Special schools 'must stay open'
classroom
A fifth of children have some form of special need
Schools for children with special educational needs must be kept open, as attempts to integrate pupils into mainstream schools were not always beneficial, the Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith said.

Mr Duncan Smith said special schools were often the best option for children with special needs and must be made financially secure.


The policy of inclusion at all costs is hurting the very people it was designed to help

Iain Duncan Smith
Speaking at a seminar at Conservative Central Office on Monday, the Tory leader said the number of children with special needs was rising - with one in five children having some sort of special need - yet special schools were being closed.

Such schools held "an incredible amount of expertise" and closure would lead to the loss of this, he said.

"Special needs schools must be preserved because for some children a special school is the best place for them to learn," said Mr Duncan Smith.

"They must have an unassailable right to this type of education if it is in their best interests."

Integration fears

Mr Duncan Smith raised an argument against integration, saying this policy was not always appropriate.

"Too often today, we are encouraging the integration of special needs children into schools that are ill-equipped to understand or to respond to their needs.

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith: Concerned for special needs schools
"Mainstream schools simply cannot offer the kind of specialised teaching and close personal care that special needs schools offer.

"As a result, too few special needs pupils receive the education they need.

"The prevailing consensus on special educational needs - the policy of inclusion at all costs - is hurting the very people it was designed to help."

The mistakes that were made over care in the community must not be made in the area of special needs education, he warned.

SEN statements

Mr Duncan Smith criticised the current special educational needs (SEN) statement system.

Local authorities were spending 90m each year assessing pupils to see if they had a particular need and then writing statements on each child.

"Nearly 1,000 families had to wait longer than the statutory 18-week period for their child to receive a statement last year - this is unacceptable," he said.

"The sooner learning disabilities can be diagnosed the sooner they can begin to be treated.

"If children have to wait for their problems to be recognised, their problems become more acute and the solutions more complex."

Mr Duncan Smith is the director of the trust of Whitefields, a special school in Walthamstow, north east London.

See also:

21 Jun 02 | UK Education
21 Jun 02 | UK Education
19 Apr 01 | UK Education
13 Mar 01 | UK Education
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