Legal challenge to Blunkett

21st April 2000 at 01:00
EDUCATION Secretary David Blunkett faces a High Court challenge for allegedly failing to investigate a council's "botched" reorganisation of its special schools.

Solicitors based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne say they are acting for around 20 families concerned at the impact the reorganisation has had on their special needs children.

The plans led to the city's special schools being cut from ten to four, and 15 new units or "resource bases" opening in mainstream schools.

Judith Lloyd, of Samuel Phillips and Company, said parents had had problems getting out-of-city placements funded by the council, and that the school closures had removed the choice of a special school placement for children with moderate learning difficulties.

She also claimed the re-organisation had been rused, leaving parents with little or contradictory information about what the options would be after their children's special schools closed.

Her firm decided to take action against Mr Blunkett, because it felt that several requests to investigate the consequences of the reorganisation had not been dealt with properly. The judicial review is scheduled for June 12.

But the council said the reorganisation had led to an increase in funding for children with special educational needs, and would promote genuine inclusion of the pupils in their local schools.

Peter Jones, Newcastle's assistant education officer for SEN, said: "Provision has increased significantly. We hope youngsters are having their needs better met in local schools. This is not a cost-cutting exercise."

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