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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 February, 2005, 13:54 GMT
Blair challenged on special needs
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair is challenged on the phase out of special needs schools
The mother of an autistic child from Essex has put the spotlight on closures of special needs schools by confronting Tony Blair in a TV studio on the issue.

Maria Hutchings, 43, made her point on channel Five's The Wright Stuff.

She interrupted the prime minister's comments on school discipline and after a brief exchange Mr Blair promised to speak to the Benfleet resident.

Ms Hutchings said: "I spoke out because the school which teaches my 10-year-old son is under threat of closure."

The prime minister is touring the country in the lead up to a possible general election.

He said to her: "Let me assure you, we will speak together at the end and we can go through what your the issue is."

Mrs Hutchings confirmed that Mr Blair had been as good as his word.

Forgotten middle England

"Tony Blair was very, very attentive. He listened to everything we had to say. We are going to meet him again," she said.

"He said to me that he knew something about autism. He felt sorry for what we had to go through. He said that he would be looking into all this personally.

"Tony Blair has been looking out of the country at wars and issues abroad - Aids, Africa, Afghanistan and wars in Iraq - so Middle Englanders are the forgotten ones.

"The people who have to pay the taxes that keep the country going - we want our share for our families and our children."

Labour campaign strategists have made clear that they want to concentrate on taking their message direct to the voters during the forthcoming campaign.

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