Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education

supporting inclusion, challenging exclusion

news from 1998

End of year review

1998 was a year when stronger positions were taken on inclusion as an increasing number of education authorities took steps to support more disabled children in mainstream schools. Proposals by many LEAs around the country reached the pages of newspapers and journals. The pro-inclusion LEAS included Sunderland, East Sussex, Somerset, Nottingham, Kingston upon Hull, Bolton, Harrow, Greenwich, Warwickshire, Merton, Calderdale, Bradford, Tameside, Gloucestershire, and Walsall.

Many of the moves towards inclusion were at the early planning stages, but the closure of at least one special school was reported and action took place of various kinds to increase and improve mainstream services for disabled children. Improvements included lowering ceilings to make education more accessible for hearing impaired pupils and making adaptations for wheelchair users. In one local authority, county councillors questioned the pace of inclusion and sought guarantees that no child would be moved into mainstream without full provision. It was also revealed that only a small proportion of authorities funded an intensive therapy for autistic children known as the Lovaas method. Meanwhile Sheffield Council had to pay for a place in a private school for a pupil with hearing impairment after the Special Educational Needs Tribunal ruled that her needs could not be met in the crowded state sector.

Concerns about the provision of appropriate mainstream support were at their strongest in Sunderland where a row over the closure of Barbara Priestman Special School hit the headlines on a regular basis. However, despite widespread Press coverage calling for the school to remain open, it became clear that not everybody was against changes to the city's separate special school system. At the beginning of 1998 Sunderland Council was criticised for being 'obsessed with inclusion' but as the year came to a close, new complaints emerged that the Council was being 'too selective' about which children should move to mainstream.

As well as commenting widely on the Government's pro-inclusion approach to special education reform, parents also made their often contrasting views known over a range of other issues including statementing procedures for children with special eductional needs and parents' right to a school of their choice. A Belfast mother said she was prepared to go to prison if she was forced to send her son to a separate special school and a Sunderland family fought for the right not to be included. One couple was so determined that their disabled daughter would not attend special school that they moved home to find an inclusive school. And another mother, having won the battle for her son to remain in mainstream, confessed that fundraising to pay for an educational assistant to support him was becoming stressful.

Pupils themselves met the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, in London to demand a change in the law to end compulsory segregation in special schools. Also focusing on legislation, there was a call for the Disability Discrimination Act to be extended to cover education and campaigners refused to accept Camden Council's explanation that it was high costs - not deliberate intentions - which prevented the authority making all schools accessible. They said such an 'appalling' attitude would not be regarded as a reasonable defence under the Equal Pay or Race Relations Acts.

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The mother of a boy who has Down's Syndrome is ready to go to prison rather than send him to a special school for children with disabilities. Gail McKibben of Belfast made her stand yesterday outside a city Magistrates' Court after the adjournment of a summons for not sending her son David, 13, to Torbank Special School. She said: 'I am not refusing to send my son to school but I am refusing to send him to a segregated school for children with disabilities'.
Irish Independent, Dublin, January 7, 1998.

A Sunderland couple today vowed to go to court in a battle to get their 12-year-old son, Scott, into Barbara Priestman Special School. Jill and Derek Phipps say they are prepared to be prosecuted by the local education authority to defend Scott's right to attend the school which they believe can best meet his needs. Sunderland LEA want him to go to a mainstream school but according to the Phipps Scott has already attended a mainstream primary where his needs could not be met. They claim the education authority is 'obsessed with inclusive education'.
Sunderland Echo, January 7, 1998.

Education in Eastbourne is bracing itself for a revolution. By the turn of the century the wheels of change will be in motion setting the standard for the millennium. East Sussex County Council is the local education authority in charge of enforcing Government policy. Forecasting a change in the law, council chiefs have adopted new rules to bring disabled and able-bodied children together in the classroom.
Eastbourne Herald, January 16, 1998.

A disabled pupil could soon be back in lessons after pressure from teachers and parents to provide facilities for her. 12-year-old Emma from Northchapel was told she could not go to Herbert Shiner School because it could not cater for a child who uses a wheelchair. However, moves are now being made to install ramps and make arrangements for lessons to be taken to Emma in classrooms which are accessible to her.
Midhurst and Petworth Observer, January 22, 1998.

Worried parents were due to meet county education chiefs at Selworthy School in Taunton last night to discuss controversial closure plans. The closure of the school is an option being considered as part of Somerset County Council's review of its eight special schools. Under the proposals the 66 pupils will be integrated into schools nearer their homes or moved to two purpose built specialist centres at a primary and secondary school in Taunton. The Council says the moves will improve the quality of education but parents say their children are already receiving the best education.
Somerset County Gazette,January 30, 1998.

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A collection of stories about the lives of families with a disabled child has sold nearly 1,500 copies and now the group behind the publication, Parents With Attitude, is planning a second collection. The first collection, Let Our Children Be, includes stories from disabled children, their siblings and parents describing many strands of their lives. The description on the back cover reads: 'Our disabled children are often denied human rights. We want them all to belong in their local communities and to have ordinary lives. Our disabled children are teaching us how to be their allies.' Pippa Murray, one of the parents involved, said she hoped publishing the stories would make a contribution to building a society that treated disabled people as equal citizens.
Disability Now, February 1998.

Val Lightowler, the mother of a four-year-old Down's Syndrome boy, has accused Bradford education chiefs of playing games with her son's future. It is Bradford Council's policy to integrate special needs children into mainstream schools wherever possible but the school offered to Joshua Lightowler has refused to take him, claiming the authority has not given it enough money to fully support him. The school was then ordered by the LEA to take Joshua but his mother refused to go along with it. According to Mrs. Lightowler: 'I was not feeling very confident that Joshua was really going to get the support he needed. Joshua should be able to go into school like any other child and it should be automatic that he gets the support he needs'.
Bradford Telegraph and Argus, February 6, 1998.

A second comprehensive school in Nottingham is set for a cash injection as councillors seek to wipe out no-go areas for wheelchairs. Ellis Guilford Comprehensive is already set to spend £112,000 to provide disabled access, and now Nottingham City Councillors are due to approve a further funding boost to another secondary school to allow disabled pupils to attend. At present no secondary schools in Nottingham are accessible to disabled pupils and only 11 other schools are wheelchair friendly.
Nottingham Evening Post, February 19, 1998.

Writing in The Times newspaper, Estelle Morris, Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Employment, has given an assurance that the government is not planning to close all special schools. She says: 'While we certainly want to offer parents greater opportunities to place their children in mainstream schools we are not planning to close all special schools. Indeed we believe that many special schools can work more closely with mainstream schools and some can become centres of excellence'.
The Times, February 23, 1998.

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Kingston upon Hull's Education Committee has agreed the controversial closure of Derringham Special School. Councillors have assured parents who oppose the closure that they will have a say in where pupils now go. Pupils will not have to go to mainstream schools if they don't wish and can attend other special schools. The decision comes after a damning OFSTED inspection last year gave the school an ultimatum to improve.
Hull Daily Mail, March 3, 1998.

Several hundred parents and children are due to take part in a Rights at Risk Campaign in London to protest over Government proposals which it's feared could threaten special needs provision. Petitions and letters will be handed in to Government ministers and 250 balloons will be released. Each balloon represents 1,000 children who currently have statements of special educational need but whose provision could be threatened if proposals in the Government's special needs Green Paper are made law. One of the speakers at the rally, Ryan Gross, 15, from Plymouth, said: 'I have been successful at school because I have guaranteed help. I want to be sure that young people don't lose those guarantees'.
Plymouth Evening Herald, March 11, 1998.

Sheffield Council is to pay for the private education of a partially deaf eight-year-old girl who was unable to hear her teachers because of the size of classes in her state school. An independent Special Needs Tribunal ruled that the council could not give Alice Ford the education she needed at St Wilfrid's Primary School, Sheffield. Sheffield education authority agreed to pay her £2,500-a-year fees at Mylnhurst School in Ecclesall where classes are smaller.
The Daily Telegraph, March 19, 1998.

The mother who has been educating her son at home rather than send him to special school has been convicted of refusing to send him to school. Gail McKibben from Belfast was given a conditional discharge for a year at Belfast Magistrates' Court. She was warned that if she continues to keep her son David, 13, out of school she could face substantial fines. However, Ms McKibben, who heads the charity group Disability Action, remained adamant that her son would not go to Torbank Special School, as recommended by the Education Authority. 'If I am fined I will not pay and if that means going to jail then so be it.'
The Irish Times (Dublin), March 24,1998.

The head teacher of Welburn Hall School, Kirkbymoorside, Vic Hall, says that North Yorkshire County Council have decided not to close the school after all. He says he imagines the Council is examining its provision in the light of the Government's Green Paper on special needs provision. Although the Green Paper promotes inclusion that does not mean that a segregated school like Welburn does not have a future. He hopes that Welburn can be promoted as a regional facility to fulfil the Green Paper's call for greater regional co-operation between local education authorities.
Yorkshire Gazette and Herald, March 26, 1998.

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Fundraising continues at St Wilfrid's Roman Catholic Primary School in Northwich to raise £9,000 each year to pay for an educational assistant for seven-year-old Sam Walker. Cheshire County Council has refused to fund an assistant for Sam on the grounds that it is an inefficient use of resources, but Sam has become such an important part of school life at St. Wilfrid's that everyone wants to keep him there. However, his mother Denise says the constant worry over money takes its toll. 'Sam is flourishing at St. Wilfrid's and we are determined to keep him there, but the continual need to raise money is draining'.
Winsford Chronicle, April 7, 1998.

Two Milton Keynes youngsters with special needs were the victims of 'injustice' at the hands of Buckinghamshire County Council. Ombudsman Jerry White found the Council guilty of maladministration in the cases of Joanne Barker and Matthew Boyd-Gravell. Matthew's mum, Chris, said: 'The Council misled us and used delaying tactics to try to avoid its legal duty to properly fund our children's education. It was devastating to be treated so badly by those who are supposed to be public servants. Now they are being told to put their house in order we hope other parents will not have to face the same struggle'.
Stony Stratford and Wolverton Observer, April 8, 1998.

Extra government funding to make Teeside schools more accessible to disabled children is not enough says a local MP. Nearly £119,000 to be shared between the area's schools is just 'crumbs from the table', according to Labour backbencher Frank Cook, MP for Stockton North. The money was promised this week by Education Minister Estelle Morris as part of an £11m programme to make life easier for pupils with special needs. Ministers hope the money will provide improvements such as special toilets for disabled pupils, ramps, handrails and lifts as well as special equipment.
Teeside Evening Gazette, April 10, 1998.

In a letter to the Editor, Helen Jeremiah points out the contradiction between the Disability Discrimination Act and education legislation. She says disabled pupils face being turned away from their local schools because of access problems. However, once they grow up they will have the right to be accommodated where their jobs are based. She wants the DDA to be extended, even if only in spirit, in such cases and adds: 'Education should not be based on the segregation of disabled and non-disabled, it should provide the foundation upon which we learn to appreciate and value each other as individuals, not to fear or ridicule those who are different'.
South Wales Evening Post (Swansea), April 24, 1998.

A family of six are moving 150 miles to start a new life so that their disabled daughter can attend the same school as her brother and sisters. Katie Clarke, her husband Andy and their four young children are leaving their Northumberland village home to move to West Yorkshire after finally admitting defeat in their two-year campaign to get six-year-old Nadia into an ordinary school in the North East. In September the children will all become pupils at Saville Park Primary School in Halifax, where non-disabled youngsters are taught alongside deaf children. Last night Mrs Clarke said the family were leaving with sadness that the education system forced families with disabled children into such drastic action.
Newcastle upon Tyne Journal, April 25, 1998.

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A Northumberland mother is so pleased with the way her disabled son has been supported in his primary school that she has recommended the school for the Government's coveted Charter Mark award. Nine-year-old Grant Kane, who has dyspraxia, has been a pupil at Coulson Park First School in Ashington for three years. His mother, Carol, said of the school's headmaster, Michael Lawler: 'I always feel as though Mr. Lawler doesn't put problems on you but actually takes them away from you. I have been very impressed with the education and care Grant receives'.
Newcastle on Tyne Journal, May 5, 1998.

Totnes schoolboy, James Rowe, has won over Devon education chiefs to get a place at a senior school alongside his pals. James, who has spina bifida, and his parents have spent the last six months battling to get a place at King Edward V1 Community College. The Council initially proposed to send James to a school in Paignton ten miles from his home but have now agreed to make money available so that KEVICC can become disabled-user friendly.The £80,000 windfall to the college represents three-quarters of the county's disablement access budget. College Principal Mr Stephen Jones said: 'Myself, the teachers, and governors are delighted that we will be able to encourage disabled students, teachers, and parents to use our facilities'.
Totnes Times, May 14, 1998.

Young children with hearing problems are having their high ambitions capped by lofty ceilings in older school buildings. Sounds bouncing around classrooms with high ceilings make it difficult for those with hearing aids to understand their teachers. But now Bolton Council has been awarded a special needs grant to install suspended ceilings so children with hearing difficulties can join in the lessons at one local school. Staff at Devonshire Road Primary say the £11,000 Government grant to improve the acoustics in eight classrooms will also help their full-time pupils concentrate on their work.
Bolton Evening News, May 14, 1998.

A group of sighted childen formed their own club to learn Braille following the arrival of Charlie Coyle, who is blind, three years ago. Now the pupils at St Joseph's Roman Catholic First and Middle School in Harrow have written to the Education Secretary, David Blunkett -- and received a reply in Braille.
Harrow Observer, May 14, 1998.

A Barnsley primary school is to join with a nearby private school in a newstyle project to tackle problems of dyslexia. The scheme is one of a number of different projects nationwide in which state and private schools are working together to break down barriers between the two sectors. Darton Primary School is teaming up with Wakefield Independent School to identify needs and to provide teaching to remedy dyslexia-type problems for pupils. Barnsley Dyslexia Association will carry out assessments. It will also help train a teacher in each of the two schools who will be designated to specialise in such work.
Rotherham Star, May 16, 1998.

Tony Blair has been urged by a group of young people who brought their complaints to his doorstep to back moves to integrate more pupils with learning disabilities into mainstream schools. Protestors from organisations including the Alliance for Inclusive Education and mental handicap charity Mencap arrived in Downing Street yesterday. They asked the Prime Minister to support a change in the law to stop local education authorities forcing disabled youngsters into special schools.
Lichfield and Burnwood Express and Star, May 27, 1998.

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Campaigning parents Paul and Sarah Abel are taking legal action in a bid to secure a better life for their three-year-old son Christopher and other autistic children. They are battling to get Nottingham County Council to fund intensive therapy treatment known as the Lovaas method which is helping to release their son from a world of silence. The therapy is not available on the NHS. However, it is provided by 41 of the country's 120 local education authorities. Nottingham is not one of those authorities who fund the therapy, although neighbouring Derbyshire and Lincolnshire do.
Nottingham Evening Post, June 17, 1998.

A 14-year-old disabled girl knocked on the door of 10 Downing Street to demand a change in the law which pushes disabled youngsters into special schools. Katie Caryer of Muswell Road, Muswell Hill, took part in a campaign visit to Tony Blair's office in a bid for 'inclusive education'. Now Katie and five of her friends will come face to face with Education Secretary, David Blunkett, after they occupied the Department of Education and refused to budge.
Hornsey and Crouch End Journal, June 10, 1998.

Angry parents will stage a march in protest against the threatened closure of a school for the visually impaired. They will hold the demonstration this week in a bid to persuade Bradford Council to drop plans to shut Temple Banks School. A new Parents' Action Group has been formed to oppose the proposal.
Bradford Telegraph and Argus, June 15, 1998.

Warwickshire County Council has organised the biggest shake-up ever in special needs education. The County County has unanimously approved the proposals going out for consultation which will see 11 special schools closing and more children than ever being included in mainstream education. Some teachers believe losing their jobs is the price you pay for trying to provide the best for children. Others, who prefer not be named are worried: 'While we want more children to be supported in mainstream schools, the quality of that support might not be widely understood by head teachers unused to learning problems.'
Nuneaton Evening Telegraph, June 17, 1998.

All Greenwich schools are to welcome pupils with special educational needs after its provision for them was criticised for a 'lack of vision and sense of purpose'. A highly critical 1997 review by the National Children's Bureau has led to a new draft document called a Special Educational Needs Strategy for Greenwich. It hopes to ensure a 'long-term transformation' of the education service in Greenwich into one offering children with special educational needs a place in mainstream education.
New Shopper Lewisham and Catford, June 17, 1998.

Councillors in Carmarthenshire are supporting a charter to integrate youngsters with disabilities and learning difficulties into mainstream schools. The Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education has drawn up a Charter calling for the ending of segregation for all children and young people with disabilities. It believes that excluding children from mainstream because of disability or learning difficulty is devaluing and discriminating. It also believes that segregated education is a major cause of society's widespread prejudice against adults with disabilities or difficulties. Coun. E. Thomas said the charter should be welcomed because it was full of good intentions but cautioned that it was not covered by serious financial support and laws.
Carmarthen Journal, June 24, 1998.

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A London Borough is reversing the tide of rising exclusions by closing its special schools and behaviour support centre. Instead, unruly children in Merton are being dealt with in mainstream schools using a variety of teaching methods and approaches designed to bring the disaffected and disruptive into line. A report on behaviour support in Merton from the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education states: 'Merton's experience demonstrates that it is possible - even despite contrary pressures in force at the time - to implement effectively an inclusive response to disaffection and disruption which concentrates on building the capacity of schools rather than excluding pupils.'
Times Educational Supplement, July 3, 1998.

Youngsters from the West Midlands and even France are pulling out all the stops to raise £125,000 so that a Wolverhampton girl in a wheelchair can fulfil her dream of going to the same school as her friends. Becky Raymond-Barker, 10, who has cerebral palsy, wants to go to St Edmunds R.C. School, Wolverhampton, but the building is not equipped for wheelchairs. The school governors agreed to let her start there in September as long as enough money is raised to build a lift, widen doorways and fit ramps.
Wolverhampton Express and Star, July 3, 1998.

In a letter to the Editor, Mark Lacey, of Calderdale Mencap, has urged Calderdale Council to start a 'genuine debate' on adult education for people with learning difficulties. Mr Lacey says Mencap supports a policy of integration but it does not agree with the version being planned by the Council which will support only selected individuals with comparatively low support needs. 'We say that integration is a two-way process from which nobody should be excluded. It will cost more than segregated provision of course - and this is the issue which the Council dares not face. Instead it would prefer to integrate a few people who are more able and leave the rest to the vagaries of "social provision".'
Halifax Evening Courier, July 11, 1998.

Parents campaigning for a re-think on the proposed closure of a Sunderland special school have written to the education secretary, David Blunkett, saying they oppose a blanket policy of 'inclusive education'. According to parents at Barbara Priestman School special needs children should only be included in mainstream schools where individually appropriate and where parents wish it, not as a general policy.
Sunderland Echo, July 18, 1998.

George Cranmer, a former pupil, joins protests about the closure of Barbara Priestman School by writing to the editor saying he feels strongly that the proposal must be defeated. 'Although I agree with the principle of integration of the disabled and able-bodied wherever possible I am sure there are circumstances where a specialist school is necessary. The full integration ideal is just an ideal - how many ideals can we achieve?'
Sunderland Echo, July 23, 1998.

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The former headmaster of Sunderland's Barbara Priestman Special School which is threatened with closure claims the school is 'unique'. He says that during all his travels in Europe and the USA he has never found a school approaching the standards being achieved at Barbara Priestman.
Sunderland Echo, August 3, 1998.

The mother of an autistic child has set up a support group in Nottingham to help other affected families. Sharon Scoffing, 32, wants to help other parents to get their autistic children into mainstream education. The support group, SPACE in Mainstream,will help parents of autistic children who are trying to find places in Notts primary schools. Sharon said: 'Autistic children should be able to mix with their peers and not be segregated. Some schools are superb but, sadly, others are not and many parents experience huge problems in putting their children into mainstream education.'
Nottingham Recorder, August 6, 1998.

The chair of the Governors of Barbara Priestman School Sunderland speaking out against its closure says all children at the school receive the full National Curriculum and the school has received a 'glowing' OFSTED report. He describes the school as a 'more than a school for the disabled. It is a living community.' Malcolm Craddock, assistant director, education and community services department, Sunderland City Council, says numbers at Barbara Priestman are dropping rapidly because parents are opting for mainstream schools. 'In the past Barbara Priestman was successful in offering sheltered environment for some children with a bad experience of mainstream schools, but things have moved on. The Government is providing significant extra money to enhance access for disabled students in mainstream schools. This is now what the majority of parents want and this is what we are aiming to provide.'
Sunderland Echo, August 10, 1998.

Parents of eight children with major learning difficulties have won a four-month legal battle to have their special educational needs re-assessed by Bradford Council. The parents, who claim the Local Education Authority acted unlawfully in giving mainstream schools the responsibility of deciding how the needs of each child should be met, were preparing for a judicial review in the High Court. But the Council has agreed to settle the matter out of court by carrying out reassessments and meeting the parents' legal costs.The parents' solicitor, Elaine Maxwell, said up to 2,000 children in the district who required a statement would be affected by today's ruling.
Bradford Telegraph and Argus, August 27, 1998.

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There's been a strong reaction to Camden Council's explanation as to why only two of its schools are accessible to wheelchair users. The Assistant Education Director at Camden, Philip O'Hear, argued that lack of funds and high costs had prevented Camden making more schools wheelchair accessible and added 'It's not discrimination because it's not deliberate or conscious.' In a letter to the editor, Keith Armstrong says such an attitude is appalling and would not be a good defence under the Equal Pay or Race Relations Acts.
Camden New Journal, September 3, 1998.

Blind schoolgirl Carly Salter has been celebrating seven GCSE successes after pioneering a breakthrough for the visually impaired in Wales. Sixteen-year-old Carly, from Curtis Street, Neath, earned the biggest cheer at Cefn Season Comprehensive School for achieving B grades in mathematics French, German, and history and Cs. in English language, literature and science. Carly, the first blind girl to get fully integrated teaching in a mainstream school, sat her exams in Braille.
Neath Guardian September 3, 1998.

Chris Philbin, who has Down's Syndrome, has blown away the negative attitudes that he and his mother have faced by gaining six GCSEs - that's six more passes than ten per cent of 16-year-olds left school with this year. Chris from Eastham, London, was born when Newham Council adopted a policy of educating as many special needs children as possible in mainstream schools - a development that was to have a great bearing on his life. Chris gained two Ds in science, an E in art, an F in food technology and Gs in dance and maths. Chris says he is happy with his grades.
City of London Recorder, September 11, 1998.

The Director of Education in Sunderland, Dr. John Williams, has agreed to withdraw an immediate block on new admissions to Barbara Priestman Special School - although the school still faces closure under Sunderland Council's plans to scrap separate education for physically disabled pupils. Barbara Priestman parent governor, Bridget Rees-Thomas, said the decision would be a relief to parents of disabled children about to start at Barbara Priestman who had been told their children had to go into mainstream schools. 'They were very worried because the facilities are just not there yet. This is very good news for them.'
Sunderland Echo, September 23, 1998.

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More Reading schoolchildren with special needs could have the chance to attend mainstream schools thanks to a new council scheme. Council members last night approved plans to investigate setting up a special needs unit at Prospect Technology College. Two mainstream primary schools in Reading already teach children with special needs and the unit will make it easer for them to go on to a mainstream secondary school. Coun. Jo Lovelock, chair of Reading's Education Committee, said: 'The response from the staff at Prospect Technology College and the mainstream primary schools where these pupils currently go has been very positive. The new unit will initially take six children but the council hopes to build it up to about 30.'
Reading Evening Post, October 14, 1998.

Television presenter Martin Bashir says special school for his disabled brother who died when he was 29 was more like a child-minding service and 'things have not got much better'. Mr. Bashir has been making a documentary 'Just One Chance' about special education. He says local authorities have only a qualified duty to integrate children with special needs and there are loopholes available should schools wish to turn down those with disabilities. While acknowledging that the government is trying to increase the capability of schools to cater for children with special educational needs he points out that it is too late to make a difference for his brother.
The Daily Telegraph, October 12, 1998.

A disability help group has abandoned an experiment to help children with difficulties get into mainstream schools. The North East Access Centre, based at the University of Sunderland, was helping Sunderland Education Authority to put children from special schools like Barbara Priestman into mainstream. However, the group, whose speciality is helping disabled students get access to university, has decided to abandon its involvement because it does not feel it has the expertise to work with younger children. Malcolm Craddock, assistant director of education Sunderland Council, said the Centre was one of many groups the Council was using in their programme of helping children into mainstream education. 'It doesn't rely on them. We have got to look at as many different ways of helping as possible. There is a feeling of apprehension and we want to bring in third parties. They were one of the agencies we were hoping to use. There are other doors open to us.'
Sunderland Echo, October 9, 1998.

The axe fell on eight special schools in Sunderland last night in a massive shake-up of the city's education system. A special meeting of Sunderland Council's education committee voted overwhelmingly to close down eight special schools to make way for a number of new special schools and improved facilities at a number of mainstream schools. Parents of children at Barbara Priestman who packed the public gallery at the Civic Centre were furious at the decision.
Sunderland Echo, October 16, 1998.

Years of patient teaching at Waveney Special School in Tonbridge have helped eight-year-old James Spink to become '95 per cent normal', says his mother Sandra. But she fears the care and attention shown to James and the other children will be wasted if they are forced into mainstream education at 11 as a result of changes proposed by Kent County Council. KCC spokesman Jackie Marks told Tonbridge Courier that education chiefs were aware that parents were worried. But the chosen plan would take two or three years to put into action and during that time SEN provision in mainstream would be enhanced.
Tonbridge Courier, October 23, 1998.

In a letter to the Sunderland Echo, a parent, Linda Anderton, claims that Sunderland Council is operating a policy of 'selective inclusion'. She says Barbara Priestman will cease to exist as a school for physically disabled children but the fundamental structure of the remaining special schools will remain the same, although in some cases pupils may change sites. Although the Council had told her that this was the first stage in a policy of total inclusion for all pupils with special needs she found it hard to believe the Council would spend considerable sums of money on refurbishing or even building special schools when they will eventually be integrating all pupils into mainstream schools.
Sunderland Echo, October 27, 1998.

Alderman Knight Special School is being crucified by cuts made by Gloucestershire County Council, says its chairman of governors, Joe Kent. According to Mr. Kent county plans to integrate the 1,300 pupils in special schools into mainstream schools will damage the schools and the future of the youngsters. He says staff could lose their jobs and the quality of teaching will be adversely affected.
Gloucestershire Echo, October 29, 1998.

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A 24-year-old woman who successfully sued her former schools for failing to diagnose that she was dyslexic had her £45,650 damages award taken away by the Court of Appeal today. Pamela Phelps became the focus of a test case which her lawyers said would bring hundreds of other claims from people who believe their schools failed them because of similar difficulties. But today the appeal judges said it was up to Ms. Phelps to prove her learning difficulties had affected her earning capacity and she had not done so. Hillingdon Borough Council's education authority had not been negligent.
Evening Standard London, November 4, 1998.

A £60 million Government boost for special needs children has been given a cautious welcome. The package is designed to reduce the number of pupils needing statements of special need. The Government says there will always be a need for special schools, but ministers want to see closer links between the two sectors. School standards minister Estelle Morris said: 'Over time we expect more parents to feel confident that their children's needs can be met without a statement. But we will not remove parents' rights to request a statutory assessment or statement. Nor will we remove the legal protection offered by statements'. As part of the package, funds to improve access to schools for disabled people will increase four-fold to £20 million. Malcolm Craddock, Sunderland Council's assistant director welcomed the cash. He said: 'This is fully in line with what we have been doing for the last two years. We can only tap into this money if we have an inclusion policy and we will be left behind if we don't.'
Sunderland Echo, November 6, 1998.

Cromwell Secondary Special School could be axed as part of a major shake-up in special needs education. The 68 pupils will be moving to Dukinfield Astley High School if sufficient funding is made available by Government. A Council report slammed Cromwell saying it was not suitable for the delivery of a secondary curriculum. The move is part of a long-term plan to integrate every pupil with severe learning difficulties into mainstream school and college life. Tameside Education Chair, Cllr. Alan Whitehead said: 'What these children need is particularly skilled teaching. We think we can provide that by having them at Dukinfield Astley. We will be looking for additional resources in due course to give the children the opportunities they need and deserve.'
Ashton Advertiser (Tameside), November 12 1998.

Councillors have acted to reassure parents whose children attend Gloucestershire's special schools. In a unanimous vote across party lines, the County Council's education committee refused to adopt policies and recommendations set out in a working party report. The committee told officers they want much more detail of how reform of special schools will be carried out and where the money is coming from. After a two-hour debate councillors decided not to approve immediately proposals to move children to mainstream and offered parents a guarantee. Director of Education Roger Crouch was instructed to tell parents and teachers that no child would be moved from a special school to a mainstream school 'without the full provision of the required skills, resources and finance to support and enhance the child's education in mainstream school with the consent of the parents.'
Gloucester Citizen, November 17, 1998.

Parents and teachers are to be given extra time to have their say on a major shake-up of special education facilities in Walsall. Education chiefs have extended the consultation period on its plan for special schools until the end of February. The proposals being put forward by Walsall Council include relocating some of the seven special schools and the integration into mainstream education of others. Coun. Tom Perrett, vice-chair of Walsall's education committee, said: 'We are trying to give parents and schools more time to have an input into the re-organisation plans and obtain some kind of consensus. We are not trying to save money but to provide better special education'.
Walsall Express and Star, November 18, 1998.

Jack Rabinowicz, the lawyer in the Pamela Phelps dyslexia case has said he will take the case to the House of Lords after the Court of Appeal Ruling cancelling damages previously awarded. Many of his cases remain on hold pending the final outcome of the dyslexia issue. However, he remains upbeat that there will be other successes. 'You have schools labelled as seriously failing with incompetent heads, teachers with no motivation, pupils out of control, children who are difficult to handle being dumped there and other children who can't go anywhere else failing miserably as a result. There are bound to be successful cases and before very long'.
Evening Standard (London) November 25, 1998.

The campaign to keep Barbara Priestman School open has been slammed as 'evil' and 'selfish' by Sunderland's education committee chairman. In an astonishing attack on the campaign to save the special needs school, Coun. Ron Hunter told a full Council meeting he was sick of what he called 'lies and distortions'. He accused campaigners of bullying those who disagree with them, abusing council officers, and frightening and misleading other parents of special needs children. He told councillors: 'Our plan is about children, providing the best for them. But this evil campaign has blinded the public into thinking it is about bureaucrats in the Civic Centre. Why is a small group of campaigners doing this? Mostly they are people who want to preserve Barbara Priestman for their children alone. It is a selfish campaign from a small group who do not want to share with the majority'.
Sunderland Echo, November 30, 1998.

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An 11-year-old disabled girl is being taught at home for a year because of a setback to her dream of joining her chums at a Wolverhampton School. St Edmunds RC School needs to make adaptations estimated at £125,000 so that Becky Raymond-Barker can get there in her wheelchair. But the main gas pipe for the school will have to be moved because it runs under the spot where a lift needs to be installed for Becky. The work will take several weeks during which time the gas supply would be cut off. The only time possible to carry out the work seemed to be during the summer holidays next year. In the meantime the school is supplying class work to Becky who is being supervised at home by her mother.
Wolverhampton Express and Star, December 2, 1998.

Scotland's Education Minister, Helen Liddell, has announced a £7 million pot of money and 10 measures aimed at standardising and improving special needs education services. Based on testimony from more than 300 individuals and groups, the plan includes a new national advice service for families and a good practice manual for schools and other professionals. Advocacy groups, parents and researchers have welcomed the proposals, praising the Scottish office for its emphasis on including parents and children in decision making and tailoring services and training to local needs.
The Scotsman, December 9, 1998.

After winning a long drawn out battle to be enrolled in a mainstream state school, Gemma Nash vowed back then to fight for the disabled peoples' corner. Miss Nash, 25, was sent to a special needs school until the age of 12 when she eventually managed to persuade her local authority that she should be treated like any other child. Thirteen years on she is a politics graduate from Birmingham University and an active campaigner for disabled people's rights. And she has now taken up a key position as their champion at Dial House, Hamilton Place, Chester, to represent city people suffering discrimination. Miss Nash said: 'I think it is crucial that a disabled person represents disabled people. I know better than anybody else what it is like to face discrimination every single day of your life.'
Evening Leader, Chester, December 7, 1998.

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