» Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Specialist schools

Asked for the Prime Minister’s response to a committee report which said that the provision of specialist school services was very patchy, the PMOS Lord Adonis had said to the LEAs that if they wanted to make any changes to the provision of specialist schools in their areas, then they had to ensure that what they replaced them with was a better service.  This reflected the fact that there wasn’t a Government policy of closing specialist schools and that the rate of closures had fallen under the current administration compared to the previous one. The PMOS went on to say that there would always be a need for a mix of provision, for some children inclusion in the main stream system would be the answer, but for others, specialist schools per se would be the answer.  No one answer would address the needs of every child and this was illustrated in this case.  There were unique circumstances that demanded unique answers. 

Put that if the unique answer the Secretary of State had chosen highlighted the fact that the provision was completely inadequate for ordinary people. Since most people did not have £15,000 a year to pay and whether the Prime Minister had asked for this to be looked at, as it was clearly a problem, the PMOS said that as Lord Adonis had said, anything that replaced a specialist school should provide a better system. There was a statementing process that could be gone through and as was said yesterday, LEAs had actually paid for children to be able to have the option that the Secretary of State had taken up in this case.  The PMOS went on to say that it was difficult to answer questions without going further into the privacy of a nine year old, and as the PMOS had said this morning, he was not prepared to do that.

Asked as the Secretary of State had a made a statement, the press had a right to know, the PMOS said that the press did not have a right, because as the Secretary of State had said in her statement, she had not revealed all the details to protect the privacy of the child.  The PMOS added that the privacy of a nine year old came above anything else. 

The reporter again repeated his questions, adding that the PMOS’s comments were very laudable, but that the press had a right to know.  The PMOS said that the reporter was quoting the Secretary of State’s statement selectively. The reporter responded by stating the press had a right to know under the Freedom of Information, the PMOS reminded the reporter about the Press Complaints Commission rules – which the Daily Mirror had chosen to ignore – which were designed to protect the privacy of a child. The reporter responded by suggesting that there was a public interest in the case and that the press had a right to question the public statement the Secretary of State had put out.  The PMOS said that equally, people could not ignore that the Secretary of State had explicitly said that there was a limit to what she would be prepared to reveal to protect the privacy of her child. 

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

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