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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 June 2005, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Special needs audit 'is adequate'
The children's minister for England has apparently contradicted a Labour election pledge on special education.

The pledge was to undertake a national audit of special schools to get better information on provision in each area.

Campaigners have pointed out that an audit had already begun in 2004 - but only of schools for a small number of children with the most severe problems.

During Commons education questions, Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said there was no need to extend this.

ELECTION PLEDGE
We will undertake a national audit of special school provision to give better comparative information to local authorities, head teachers and school governors as they plan future special needs provision to meet their local needs
Labour Party, Schools forward not back
A full review of arrangements had already been carried out in preparation for the government's 10-year strategy on special needs, published last year, she said.

The new audit was a result of that work and covered the "relatively small" number of children whose severe difficulties were the hardest to provide for.

"The first stage is to map where that provision is so that local authorities can work together more closely and find suitable places ... for those children," she said.

She rejected fresh Conservative calls for a moratorium on the closure of special schools until there had been a full survey of the system.

'Chaos'

Ms Hughes said a moratorium would create "complete gridlock" in the system. "It would create chaos and great uncertainty for parents. It would create difficulties for local authorities who are trying to go through a process of reorganising and improving schools," she told MPs.

Where there had been closures there had "almost always" been mergers, opening of new schools or extension of existing schools.

Shadow education secretary David Cameron said afterwards: "We now have it on the record - the audit that Lord Adonis said last week was underway is limited and opaque.

"It will not cover all special schools for those with learning disabilities and it will not cover any schools for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

"It is opaque because we still don't have the terms of reference, who will carry out the review or how parents will be consulted.

"We are absolutely clear: the audit should cover all special schools, should listen to parents, should look at the bias in the law and it should be open in its details and remit."

Strategy

Labour's manifesto document, Schools forward not back, said Children with special educational needs were entitled to as good an education as everyone else.

For some that would be in mainstream school with appropriate support, for others in special schools.

"It is not for national government to dictate the proper pattern of provision from the centre, but it is essential that provision is adequate in each locality," it said.

It added: "We will undertake a national audit of special school provision to give better comparative information to local authorities, head teachers and school governors as they plan future special needs provision to meet their local needs."

In the government's strategy document, Removing barriers to learning, published in February 2004, it undertook to review provision for "low incidence" special needs - affecting "a small number of children" with "extremely severe and complex needs".

The "outline timetable" indicated that would be done in 2004.




SEE ALSO:
Anger over 'special needs' audit
13 Jun 05 |  Education
'Special needs' education queried
08 Jun 05 |  Education
Mother tackles Blair over autism
16 Feb 05 |  Education
Call for special schools review
07 Jun 05 |  UK Politics


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