Fear of the 'impossible'

24th October 1997 at 01:00
Josephine Gardiner surveys the Green Paper on special needs and talks to its architect, schools minister Estelle Morris.

Britain's second largest teachers' union warned that it may resort to strike action if teachers were faced with an influx of "impossible children" as a result of the Green Paper. Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT said on BBC1 that industrial action was a "strong possibility", writes Josephine Gardiner.

"It is totally unreasonable to expect teachers to perform miracles and solve all our deep-seated social problems," he said. However, he told The TES it was vital to distinguish between behavioural problems and other sorts of special need. "With the resources, we can cope with physical disabilities and learning difficulties."

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, welcomed the support for EBD special schools and the promise to cut the bureaucratic burden on teachers, but said he wanted the Office for Standards in Education "to understand how difficult many of these children are." The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the National Association of Head Teachers and the Professional Association of Teachers all warned that the Government's good intentions could collapse without money and training.

Groups representing specific special needs are suspicious that the Government is cutting costs under the guise of principle. Christine Gilder, director of education at Scope, said: "We are worried that there is no mention of replacing the legally binding statement with an equally strong legal right such as bringing education under the remit of the Disability Discrimination Act. " Mencap welcomed the integration plans but expressed horror at plans to reduce the number of statemented children from 3 to 2 per cent.

"As a result, 80,000 children will be left with no assurance of an appropriately funded education."

Graham Lane, education chair of the Local Government Association, however, expressed unqualified support for the Government's plans. "We have been waiting for this lead for years ... Resources are not the real problem. We can save money by closing special schools, money that can be spread much better in mainstream schools," he said. Local authorities have been protesting for years that their budgets are being crippled by increasing demands for statements.

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