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Last Updated: Friday, 6 August, 2004, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
Tories to review special schools
Student in wheelchair
Schools and universities have to try to meet special needs
The Conservatives say they might reverse Labour's policy of integrating children with disabilities into mainstream schools where possible.

They say they want to ensure disabled children are not suffering educationally from the policy.

But they would only make such a change if the review suggested that was what was needed, said the shadow minister for disabled people, Paul Goodman.

Such a move away from "inclusive" education would be controversial.

The Conservatives are sending out a consultation document to about 100 groups or organisations interested in disability to find out if the needs of children with physical disabilities or learning problems are being met.

The document asks: "Is the government's policy of inclusive education for disabled children working or are disabled children being physically included but educationally excluded?"

Balance

Mr Goodman said some disabled children were being failed by the system.

"Thirteen per cent of non-disabled young people have no qualifications. The figure for disabled young people is 24%," he said.

However, he said it was premature to say the Conservatives would reverse Labour's policy if they came to power.

"We currently want to look at all policy and we haven't made a decision yet about the balance of provision between mainstream schools and special schools," he told BBC News Online.

"We might move that way and some of my colleagues have expressed their concern about special schools being closed but we want to wait and see what response we get back."

We haven't even got inclusion yet
Linda Shaw, Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education

When he was leader of the Conservatives, Iain Duncan Smith spoke out against the closure of special schools, saying children's needs could not always be met in a mainstream school.

The debate about integration in schools is very controversial.

Special schools have been closing under Labour under a policy which aims for integration where possible, but such closures often spark strong protests among parents who believe their children's needs are being well met by the school.

At the same time, many parents fight to get their children into mainstream schools.

Teachers' representatives have complained that the drive towards the inclusion of children with learning difficulties and behavioural problems has made teaching and classroom control harder.

Prejudice

Schools and universities are now required by law to take into account the requirements of children and students with disabilities.

They have to ascertain any special needs students have, either in terms of equipment or access to buildings and also in methods of teaching.

Linda Shaw of the lobby group the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education said: "We would object strongly to any move towards segregation.

"We haven't even got inclusion yet and we are working hard on that.

"Segregation reinforces prejudice and barriers."




SEE ALSO:
Special schools or inclusion?
11 Feb 04 |  Education
Mother's plea for special schools
22 Jan 03 |  Scotland
'Unique' school faces closure
07 Jan 04 |  Tyne/Wear
Special schools 'must stay open'
08 Jul 02 |  Education
New plan for special needs pupils
11 Feb 04 |  Education


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