Special schools battle for right to choose

With the Government intent on abolishing the grant-maintained sector, what does the future hold for schools which opted for independence under the Conservatives? Clare Dean and Dorothy Lepkowska report on the results of a TES survey

The Government's refusal to allow grant-maintained special schools to choose their future status has angered heads who have urged the Education Secretary to reconsider his plans.

The White Paper proposes that the 21 special schools will become community schools and return to the local authority control. Heads responding to the TES survey were unanimously opposed to the plans.

One described them as "morally wrong", adding: "We are to be given no choice and we intend to fight for this right." Another said: "The lack of choice to parents of children in special schools is a fundamental act of discrimination. "

Two of the 13 schools responding said they wanted foundation status and one wished to become aided. Half expected problems with their LEAs. The main reason the schools had opted out (cited by six) was to achieve independent management, with five accusing their LEA of neglecting them.

Ten of the 13 schools had raised their staffing levels since becoming grant-maintained and half had improved their buildings. Most (12) now expected to lose staff, predicting that at least 25 teaching jobs and five support staff will go, plus "numerous" nursery nurses.

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