» Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Special Educational Needs Schools

Asked to clarify the Government’s policy on special educational needs, as journalists had been told that it was not the Government’s policy that special educational schools should be closed, however, the Government had advised local authorities that children educated in special schools should fall over time, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the Government’s policy was that whatever was right for the child was what parents had a right to ask for.

On 14th July 2005, the Prime Minister had said at PMQs that he wanted to "be absolutely clear about my own view which was that there would be circumstances in which the right thing for the children was to integrate them in mainstream schooling. However, I totally agree that equally, there will be situations in which that was quite the wrong thing to do. Both types of provision had to be available, therefore, I really do believe that the best mix is determined locally, rather than nationally". The PMOS said that there were two key points: firstly, that there should be a mix, and secondly, the reality was that it was up to local education authorities to decide how to do that. It was not something that central Government could dictate. We had told local authorities, however, that closures should only take place where they could clearly show something better was planned in its place, but they were local decisions.

Asked if it was the Prime Minister’s view that the provision of special educational needs schools in Tower Hamlets was inadequate, the PMO replied that he was not going to get into the detail of this case, because as the PMOS had said earlier in the day, it was our view that certain matters were personal and should be treated as such. It was up to those who had taken the decision this morning not to treat it as personal to defend that position. The PMOS said that he certainly would not like to; it was a personal matter and should be treated as such.

Asked if it was our understanding that any parent in the same circumstances would have the option, either through their own pockets, or through the taxpayer, to be able to send their child to a private school, the PMOS said that it was a matter for discussion between the parent and the local education authority whether such provision was available through the authority. It was a matter of fact that there were children with special educational needs who had to be provided for in a way that was out of the ordinary. The PMOS repeated what he had said this morning which was that these were matters for individual parents, and no matter what their parent’s role or job was, children had the right of privacy.

Asked whether all local authorities within reason  would be in a position to offer such options, the PMOS said that as the Prime Minister had said in his reply in July 2005, it was a matter for local decisions.

Put that people could only make that choice if the option was available, the PMOS said that there was a need there, and it was up to local educational authorities to decide how to meet that need. The PMOS pointed out that it had been stated as fact on certain news bulletins at lunchtime that it was the Government’s policy to close down special needs schools. It was not the Government’s policy to close down such schools, as it was a matter for local decisions. As the PMOS had said at morning lobby, there had been fewer schools closed under this administration than under the previous one.

Asked when was the Prime Minister first aware of this difficulty involving Ruth Kelly, and was it a factor in her moving from Education, the PMOS replied that he had no reason to support the question in any way.

Asked if the Prime Minister believed that the provision of special needs schools was adequate within the state sector, the PMOS said that what the Prime Minister thought was that this was a matter that was best decided locally and at local education authority level. It was the responsibility of those authorities to supply that at a local level.

Asked if the Prime Minister believed that there was any evidence that it was Ruth Kelly’s husband who dealt with the case, the PMOS replied that he did not have any information about how this was dealt with by the family concerned, and he was not going to ask, as it was a personal matter.

Put that the problem was that there seemed to be a dispute between Tower Hamlets council and Ruth Kelly, the PMOS said again that he was not going to get involved in a personal matter which should be dealt with personally and should have been kept personal.

Asked if the Prime Minister deprecated the fact that this case had come out, the PMOS replied that there were media rules which governed the privacy of children, irrespective of whether those children were children of people in the public spotlight or not. Those rules were there for a reason, and the Prime Minister was firmly of the view that that should remain the case.

Put that the Prime Minister did not believe that there was a public interest and right to knowledge, the PMOS said that he was not aware of the caveat in the rules which made that exception. A child was a child was a child.

Asked again if the Prime Minister thought that there was any public interest, the PMOS asked the journalist if he could point out a rule that said there was one.

Put that our interpretation of the rules could mean that the Prime Minister thought that everything should be hushed up if it was embarrassing, the PMOS said again that there was a reason why the privacy of children should be protected. It was up to those who had broken the rules to explain why they had done so.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news


  1. Such action by a ‘Government’ minister is par for the course. It is the usual ‘do as I say, not as I do’ stance that they so conveniently adopt when it suits them. If the state schools that Ruth Kelly helped to shape are not suitable for her child – too bad! Other less well off people have to use them so Ruth Kelly should be made to as well. It is the taxpayers who are paying her high salary and thus enabling her the luxury of private education for her child, she should lead by example. We would all like to be able to select the best options for educating our children but the hypocritical Labour ‘Government’ all the time tries to deny us such options. It has debased the education system, and standards are dropping, but this fact is hidden by constant doctoring of statistics; the best schools ie grammar schools, are being closed and the majority of people have to endure the ‘benefits’ of a failed comprehensive system that was doomed from the start. All the time, ministers buy what they deny the electorate. Sheer hypocrisy!

    Comment by Chris Holmes — 10 Jan 2007 on 8:41 am | Link
  2. My son is 9yrs old and diagnosed with Autism. He attends a mainstream school and has been excluded from school since the start of this year for over five time. My son has no speech and has behavioural problems if not able to express himself, but excluding him from school at every opportunity of an incident is not a way to help him develop into a useful member of the society.

    I think my son is being unduly punished for offences he is not able to control.

    Since the Government policy believes that every child matters, why then is my son being constantly excluded from school and not being given the help and opportunity to reach his potentials.

    I would be glad if you could advice me on what step to take to help my son.

    Thank you and I hople to hear from you soon.

    Eunice Ete
    Contact email is euniceete@talk21.com

    Comment by eunice ete — 9 Mar 2007 on 3:59 pm | Link

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