Collins anger over Leas School

A FRONTBENCH Conservative spokesman has accused a council run by his own party of having got it wrong by shutting a special school.And Tim Collins, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, vowed that if the Conservatives won the general election he would save the Leas School in Clacton, which is being closed by Tory-controlled Essex County Council.

A FRONTBENCH Conservative spokesman has accused a council run by his own party of having got it wrong by shutting a special school.

And Tim Collins, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, vowed that if the Conservatives won the general election he would save the Leas School in Clacton, which is being closed by Tory-controlled Essex County Council.

Mr Collins made his remarks after meeting a group of parents of pupils who attend the Leas, a school for children with moderate learning difficulties.

They have been told to choose whether or not to send their child to either mainstream schools or other schools for children with learning difficulties.


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The 'Hands off the Leas School' campaign has led to angry confrontations at County Hall in Chelmsford and a 5,000 signature petition being handed over.

However, after the county council voted to press ahead with the closure it referred the matter to an independent adjudicator - who agreed with the original decision.

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Yesterday Mr Collins said: "If they are saying it is right to close special schools - including this - then I disagree and I, as education secretary, intend to take the powers away from them."

He added: "I give an absolute assurance this school would not be closed.

"There is a strong feeling that, irrespective of the authority, across the country there are special schools facing closure - the pendulum has swung too far."

Mr Collins said: "The most important factor is parental choice, advised by the therapists and experts."

Last night, however, council leader Lord Hanningfield, said that he regretted the Leas School episode - which he said had been initiated before the Conservative administration took over at County Hall - and had pressed for a change of law in the House of Lords in the way parents were consulted over the closure of special schools.

"It wasn't the county council who initiated it. It was the people of Clacton.

"It was only closed because teachers and governors asked us because it was a failing school.

"I amended the law. I don't think we went through the right process. When you want to close a special school you should have more consultation."

He added it would be impossible to save the school because the legal process of closing it had taken place two years ago and could not be reversed.

"I knew nothing about the Leas until about a year-and-a-half-ago," he said.

He added: "The most important people are not the politicians but the parents and the children."

n Candidates standing in the Harwich constituency are Douglas Carswell (Conservative), Ivan Henderson (Labour), Jeffrey Titford (UKIP) Keith Tully (Lib Dem) and John Tipple (Respect).

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