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A change of policy

Extracts from House of Commons Education and Skills Committee - Third Report March 2007 A confused message

65. It is widely presumed that the Government has a policy of inclusion or an inclusion agenda. Indeed, Baroness Warnock in her recent article—which many described as a u-turn in her position on inclusion —concluded that “possibly the most disastrous legacy of the 1978 report, was the concept of inclusion.” She argued in the article that inclusion could be taken “too far” and that this was resulting in the closure of special schools to the detriment of children with SEN.

66. The Government has, in written and oral evidence to this Committee, repeatedly stated that “it is not Government policy to close special schools” and that “Government plays no role in relation to local authority [...] decisions to close schools.”

77. The most radical u-turn was demonstrated by Lord Adonis in his evidence to the Committee. The Minister described the Government as being “content” if, as a result of Local Authority decisions, the current “roughly static position in respect of special schools” continues.

78. Lord Adonis specifically said that the Government: “do not have a view about a set proportion of pupils who should be in special schools.”

79. This directly contradicts the stated aim in the 2004 SEN Strategy that “the proportion of children educated in special schools should fall over time”. The Minister’s words demonstrate a significant change inpolicy direction.

5 July 2007 Schools Minister Andrew Adonis has announced a further £23 million to expand the number of SEN specialist schools over the next three years. This will mean around 150 schools becoming specialist SEN schools.

Department for Education Green Paper “Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability” Consultation

To transfer power to professionals on the front line and to local communities we will: strip away unnecessary bureaucracy so that professionals can innovate and use their judgement; establish a clearer system so that professionals from different services and the voluntary and community sector can work together; and give parents and communities much more influence over local services.

We propose to:

• give parents a real choice of school, either a mainstream or special school. We will remove the bias towards inclusion and propose to strengthen parental choice by improving the range and diversity of schools from which parents can choose, making sure they are aware of the options available to them and by changing statutory guidance for local authorities. Parents of children with statements of SEN will be able to express a preference for any state-funded

school – including special schools, Academies and Free Schools – and have their preference met unless it would not meet the needs of the child, be incompatible with the efficient education of other children, or be an inefficient use of resources. We will also prevent the unnecessary closure of special schools by giving parents and community groups the power to take them. (My underlining)