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New voice for special needs

THE letter notifying Rowie Shaw that she had been shortlisted for the job of General Teaching Council chief executive came just days after she had accepted another position.

But David Hart's former second-in-command at the National Association for Head Teachers insists she has no regrets.

Ms Shaw is now in charge of the first organisation to represent the 160 or so charitable special schools in Britain that cater for about 5,000 severely handicapped children. She says it would have been "entirely unethical" to renege on her decision to join the National Association of Independent and Non-maintained Special Schools.

Ms Shaw says she took the job because she finds the prospect of setting up systems from scratch very exciting. "Politically it's such an interesting time for special needs," she adds.

The schools are run by large charities such as the Royal National Institute for the Blind as well as smaller foundations.

Another factor in Ms Shaw's decision is the determination of the association's national council to work with the Government and accept that new ways of thinking are necessary.

The Government's pro-inclusion agenda gives her members the opportunity to work with mainstream schools in new ways, she says. However, the association is keen to ensure that special schools are not viewed negatively.

Lobbying the Government will be one aspect of her role. A prime target will be winning her schools the right to apply for grants from sources such as the Lottery's New Opportunities Fund.

The association will hold its first residential conference in Warwick on October 1819. For details call 0171 739 1065.

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