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Special needs sum right - minister

Ministers insist their sums are right on the cost of introducing extra support needs legislation and have accused local authorities of getting their figures wrong.

Peter Peacock, the Education Minister, on Wednesday assured MSPs on the parliament's education committee that even if their figures were out, they could still find enough cash to cover any shortfall. They might only be talking about an extra pound;3 million.

The minister focused on the costs of introducing co-ordinated support plans for children with complex needs and stuck with his figure of only 1 per cent of the school population who might gain a CSP. At present 2 per cent have a record of needs under special educational needs legislation that is now being reformed.

Mr Peacock said the financial gap between the Executive and local authorities had "narrowed significantly" after extensive talks. He said authorities were wrong in suggesting that up to 15 per cent of pupils could be affected.

Ewan Aitken, the local authorities' spokesman, later said: "We've been in constructive dialogue but there is still a gap."

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