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New cash pledge to boost special needs innovators

THE value of Government grants for innovation in special needs has been increased to more than pound;3 million between now and 2002, the Education and Children Minister announced last week.

Sam Galbraith, releasing details of successful applications made earlier this year, said that the grants scheme will "support projects to improve access to the curriculum for young people with special educational needs, provide new methods of advising and involving parents, and improve and accelerate the application of new technology".

Harnessing technology is a main concern of the Communication Aids for Languages and Learning Centre (CALL), whose new premises the minister opened in the education faculty of Edinburgh University. They are shared with the Scottish Sensory Centre, which promotes effective practice and innovation for deaf and visually impaired children.

Mr Galbraith said that the joint centre will receive innovation grants totalling more than pound;150,000, which will go towards developments in voice recognition technology, curriculum support and health information.

Voluntary and charitable organisation have a key role in addressing special needs, he said. "I hope this additional pound;3 million will encourage the sector to maximise its contribution."

The innovation grants were announced in the SEN discussion paper published in May 1998 by the then education minister, Brian Wilson. Twenty-one have now been awarded, the largest of which at pound;430,000 goes to a Barnardos befriending scheme for children with challenging behaviour so that they can remain in mainstream schools.

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