MP seeks apology over school closure

AN MP is calling for an apology from both the Government and Essex County Council for shutting a special school.Harwich MP Douglas Carswell wants an apology for the Leas Special School, Clacton, which was closed last July and pupils offered places at other special or mainstream schools.

AN MP is calling for an apology from both the Government and Essex County Council for shutting a special school.

Harwich MP Douglas Carswell wants an apology for the Leas Special School, Clacton, which was closed last July and pupils offered places at other special or mainstream schools.

Mr Carswell has raised the issue again following a report published by the National Union of Teachers this week examining the costs to schools, pupils and staff of inclusion of special needs children in mainstream schools.

The report, The Cost of Inclusion, by Cambridge University Professors John Macbeath and Maurice Galton, found that while primary schools were more successful than secondary in helping young people cope successfully in mainstream classrooms, teachers, parents and children felt the strain of inclusion.


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This became more acute in secondary schools, where pupils with complex needs, particularly mental health problems, were not being catered for adequately.

It also said including children with special educational needs into mainstream classes can amount to “a form of abuse”.

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Mr Carswell said: “Here in Clacton, we campaigned for many long months to save the Leas School. We were ignored by both the Government, who endorsed the policy of inclusion in the 2001 Act, and by the local education authority as well.

“In fact the only person who took our campaign seriously was one back-bench MP in Parliament by the name of David Cameron - who asked to meet the Leas School parents at the House of Commons long before he ever became Conservative leader.”

He added: “Local parents don't need to be told that the policy of inclusion, which meant shutting the Leas School, was a mistake. They knew that from the outset.

“Yet they were ignored. Now they have been proved right, I believe that they are owed an apology.

I hope that there is someone big enough in the local education authority and in the government department to admit that closing the Leas was a mistake, and to say sorry.”

Essex County Council cabinet member for children and families Tracey Chapman said: “I am extremely saddened that Douglas Carswell is constantly revisiting an appropriate decision taken last year. He is totally misrepresenting the position on special educational needs in Essex.

“There was a lot of work done with the families involved with the Leas School taking into account each child's specific needs and many of the children are now settled in other special schools such as Market Fields.”

An Essex County Council spokeswoman said: “It is clear that there is still some misunderstanding about the way inclusion works in Essex and also the closure of The Leas School, both of which are unconnected. Every child is different and in Essex we concentrate on giving each child the very best education we can to match their individual needs.”

Schools Minister Andrew Adonis said: “We put the needs of the child first. Children should be taught in mainstream schools where this is what their parents want and it is not incompatible with the efficient education of other children.

“We also want pupils for whom this is not an option to benefit from high quality education and for strong links to be forged between special and mainstream schools so pupils can mix with their peers.

“Investment in education is at record levels and local authorities are spending more on educating children with SEN - up from £2.8 Billion in 2001/2 to £4.1 Billion in 2005/6.

“Children with SEN are taught successfully in a range of settings, including mainstream schools, special schools and specially resourced provision in mainstream schools.”

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