No school voice on disability body

21st January 2000 at 00:00
NONE of the members of a new disability watchdog has a background in education or teaching - despite the imminent extension of disability rights law to cover schools and colleges.

The first 14 commissioners of the Disability Rights Commission, which starts work in April, are drawn from a wide range of backgrounds, including local and national government, large and small businesses, interest groups and the trade union movement.

But only one - Philippa Russell, director of the Council for Disabled Children - has extensive experience of working with young people.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, says education should have at least two representatives on the commission.

"If disabled people don't get their rights when they are in education, they could be hld back for the rest of their lives. It's just so important to get it right, particularly at the school stage," he said.

But education minister Jacqui Smith, whose brief includes special educational needs, said teachers should not be concerned about the composition of the DRC.

Meanwhile, education and employment minister Baroness Blackstone this week announced that a single "disability in education" Bill would be put before Parliament later this year, covering both the extension of anti-discrimination rights to the education sector and measures on special educational needs.

The Bill will mean schools and education authorities in future will have to plan strategically for increasing disabled pupils' access to school buildings and the curriculum, and to make reasonable adjustments.

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