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No special pleading

The Scottish parliamentary inquiry into the provision of education for children with special needs is to be congratulated on its decision to reinforce the Executive's inclusion policy. As a principal teacher of learning support, I wholeheartedly welcome the strengthening of the presumption that an appropriately supported mainstream placement is the best solution for the needs of the vast majority of children and young people with special educational needs.

I would now urge that there is no backsliding on the commitment to redirect all the funding which presently goes to grant-aided special schools through local authorities and for no postponement beyond 2002 to be allowed.

Brian Monteith's bleating on behalf of special schools conveniently (and cynically) omits to mention that the funding that has been taken from local education authorities and given to private grant-aided special schools has made it much more difficult for these authorities to establish and develop local, inclusive provision.

Having, for instance, seen millions poured into Donaldson's School for the Deaf over the last few years while central belt education authorities' hearing impairment services have often been starved of th funding and staffing to support inclusive education, I have wondered many times about the sincerity of the Government's commitment to this policy.

Monteith's interest in preserving grant-aided special schools arises solely because they are grant-aided or private, not because he has any genuine interest in the education of children with special needs.

If he really was concerned about these children, why did he not raise objections when his party slashed funding for special education in England and Scotland in the early 1990s?

If he is genuinely concerned about children with special needs, why is he so keen to deny local authority services the funds they need to be educated in their local area?

Probably because he believes that such children ought to be excluded from "normal" society and penalised for their difficulties or disability by being sent away from home because there is no local alternative, and shut away in the sort of closed institutions that breed the examples of abuse that have been revealed in recent years.

The ill-informed prejudices that he parades as political opinions have rightly been treated with the contempt they deserve.

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