Specials welcome cash boost

19th May 2006 at 01:00
Special school headteachers have welcomed a pound;5.1 million cash boost as a "vote of confidence" in their ability to support special-needs pupils in mainstream schools.

Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, announced the new initiative at the All Wales conference of special school heads in Caernarfon earlier this month.

The cash will be spent over three years on projects linking special and mainstream schools and developing specialist expertise, so more special-needs children can be included in mainstream education.

LEAs working in collaboration with special schools and units will be able to bid for cash to run projects including staff training, mentoring and coaching, sharing specialist facilities and equipment, working with parents, and supporting individuals in mainstream settings.

Gareth Jones, head of Ysgol Belmont, Buckley, and chair of the North Wales Federation of Special Education Head Teachers, said: "We have been pressing for this extra money at our meetings with Jane Davidson and her officials.

"It's a step in the right direction and proves that she has been listening to us."

Maxine Grant, of St Christopher's school, Wrexham, said: "For a long time we have been supporting our mainstream colleagues as best we can. But there was no specific money for this. Now we no longer have to rely on goodwill to make things happen.

"We can put forward exciting projects which will mean special-needs pupils can remain in mainstream schools wherever possible. The money will help bridge the gap between the two sectors."

Chris Major, head of Heronsbridge School, Bridgend, said the initiative sent a positive message to special schools. "The Assembly government is saying it believes we have a significant role to play," he said. "It is a vote of confidence in all of us."

Dr Gareth Price, assistant director of education in Bridgend, said the money would allow his authority to employ two extra teachers based in special schools to work on outreach projects.

"We have been doing this on an ad hoc basis already," he said. "But we can now have extra staff to help individual youngsters and give guidance to mainstream teachers.

"We have been waiting for this initiative for a long time."

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