Page last updated at 21:58 GMT, Wednesday, 21 July 2010 22:58 UK

Academy schools could 'damage special needs education'

Labour has warned that expanding the academy schools programme could damage special needs education.

During committee stage of the Academies Bill on 21 July 2010, Shadow Schools Minister Vernon Coaker accused the government of seeking to "plunge headlong" into a programme of allowing schools to opt-out of local authority control.

He said that allowing special schools to become academies could "damage the provision of education, particularly the provision with respect to special educational needs in an area."

Children and families minister Sarah Teather told MPs: "We think it is right that special schools should have access to the same opportunities and freedoms that we are giving to mainstream schools and indeed many special schools want that freedom."

Mr Coaker also said that academies should be set up in disadvantaged areas, as had been the policy under the Labour government, not at schools that had been rated as "outstanding".

Tory former Cabinet minister John Redwood asked why Mr Coaker believed "extra freedom is good for a badly-performing school but you can't trust schools performing well with extra freedoms?"

Mr Coaker said a school rated as "outstanding" had already demonstrated it had the freedoms it needed to succeed.

He said there was "mixed" evidence about the success of giving schools greater freedom and "to plunge headlong into a massive expansion of academy freedoms without due regard to what the evidence is actually saying is not the right course of action to take".

You can see part two of the debate here.


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