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Special needs an afterthought

We, at Mencap, were left feeling depressed after the party leaders spelt out their future aims for education. Once again, a huge sector has been forgotten, not even qualifying for the first rung of Labour's 21 steps - children with learning disabilities.

There has been a steady decrease in the number of teachers who have specific qualifications to teach people with learning disabilities. In 1985, 200 people gained the qualification; in 1995, the number fell to just 40. With no further funding, this number will continue to fall.

Neither the main parties nor the media seem to be remotely interested in the education of people with special needs - at best, they are included as an afterthought. All children are important,- so why do politicians continually forget, or choose to forget, the 400,000 children with the greatest educational needs? And, at the same time, their parents' votes.

STEVE BILLINGTON

Director of Campaigns

Mencap National Centre

123 Golden Lane

London EC1

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