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Parent power puts an end to special school places

Nine out of 10 parents are choosing to send children with special educational needs to mainstream schools, John Stodter, Aberdeen's director of education, told school boards last weekend, writes David Henderson.

"That's a startling fact and a big challenge to the status quo," Mr Stodter said. Five years ago, the city had five dedicated special schools but is slimming down to three and will probably cut the total further. "There will still be a role for free-standing special schools but resources will follow the pupils," Mr Stodter warned.

The city has developed SEN bases in 30 schools to provide the local mainstream education it believes all children should have. It is also sending fewer children to residential schools, sometimes at the other end of the country, where places can cost well in excess of pound;80,000 a pupil.

"Is it good for them socially, educationally, emotionally?" Mr Stodter asked. Authorities had to consult widely, present their plan and cajole interested parties before pressing ahead. "Even then you get people chucking bricks at it," he said.

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