Package will inform parent decisions

Scottish Office plans for special education include:

* A doubling to Pounds 5 million a year in the amount local authorities will have to spend on in-service training for special needs.

* An increase from Pounds 3 million to Pounds 6.5 million a year from April for local authorities to spend on language and speech therapy for young people.

* A new Pounds 2 million grant scheme to support voluntary and non-statutory organisations working in special educational needs.

* An extension to at least March 2000 in the life of the national training co-ordination project for special educational needs.

* Setting up from April a national advice service on special needs for parents, which will also publish information for young people.

* Confirmation that the number of educational psychologists in training will rise from 24 last year to 34 from April, a 40 per cent increase over two years.

* Issuing a manual of good practice in the new year.

"This new money will ensure families of pupils with special educational needs have information and advice to help them make informed decisions about the education of their children," the Education Minister said. "It will help children and young people themselves to express their views and aspirations. It will also significantly improve the opportunities for school staff and professionals to develop their expertise."

Bronwen Cohen, director of Children in Scotland, particularly welcomed the creation of an independent advice service and new cash for the voluntary sector.

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