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Shake-up in special needs world

A group of senior special needs employees from the UK's last remaining Special Educational Microelectronics Resource Centre, set up by the Department of Education and Science in 1982, have quit. They blame the strained relationships with their parent company, Yorkshire International Thomson Multimedia (YITM), the software publisher which took over Semerc (formerly known as Northwest Semerc), in Oldham, earlier this year.

The departing staff are starting a new company, Inclusive Technology Ltd, which will launch a range of new products in January at the BETT educational technology show. Six of Semerc's 24 staff, including two of the remaining three directors, are understood to have resigned last week (although YITM says only five have gone).

Managing director Martin Littler left the company two weeks ago "by mutual consent". "At Northwest Semerc we helped build a Pounds 3 million company in six years, providing teachers with the tools they need. We can do it again. On-line delivery of services will be the key to our future - half of my team are already experienced in creating Web sites," he says.

Semerc, well known for popular, easy-to-use educational software suites, like My World, and for access devices for special needs students, will continue to trade from its Oldham base. "We have a new, powerful management team starting this week that gives us a mixture of special needs and commercial experience, " says YITM boss Nigel Ward. "We have just invested Pounds 250,000 in putting Wellington Square, the Thomas Nelson reading scheme, on to CD-Rom. It's the biggest software investment in Semerc's history."

Inclusive Technology is setting up premises in Manchester and already has backing from a major leisure software company. On-line special needs support is likely to be a priority.

Semerc, 1 Broadbent Road, Watershedding, Oldham OL1 4HU. Tel: 0161 627 4469. Inclusive Technology Ltd, 2 Castle Street, Castlefield, Manchester M3 4LZ. Tel: 0161 832 6633

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