MPs told of special needs school row

A SELECT committee of MPs has visited an Essex school which is at the centre of row over special needs pupils. Market Field Special School, in Elmstead Market, near Colchester, has taken on 12 children from The Leas School, a school for children with moderate learning difficulties, in Clacton, which was closed despite widespread opposition.

A SELECT committee of MPs has visited an Essex school which is at the centre of row over special needs pupils.

Market Field Special School, in Elmstead Market, near Colchester, has taken on 12 children from The Leas School, a school for children with moderate learning difficulties, in Clacton, which was closed despite widespread opposition.

Headteacher Gary Smith has said there is not enough provision in Essex for special needs pupils.

He now has 136 pupils at his school, despite only having a budget for 120 five to 16-year-olds, and is seeing parents every week who want their children to attend Market Field.

Yesterday a Commons committee visited the school and spoke to Mr Smith about getting a better deal for youngsters with special needs.

Mr Smith said: “It is about having a range of provision for children with moderate learning difficulties.

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“They have taken on board all I had to say and have gone away with some information I gave them, so it is a case of waiting to see what happens next but we are going to win this.”

Previously he hit out against education bosses at Essex County Council, telling the EADT: “They haven't listened to the needs and views of the most vulnerable children and parents and headteachers who've got the bottle to speak out.”

Douglas Carswell, MP for Harwich, is on the select committee, and he said he believed there should be more choice for parents with children with learning difficulties.

“I hope that if there is to be one good thing that comes out of the closure of The Leas School, then I hope it is a change of national policy and a recognition that it was the wrong thing to do.

“Parents of children with a whole range of special needs, from severe to moderate, need to have a choice.”

The school is in north Essex MP Bernard Jenkin's constituency, and he said: “Market Field is exactly the kind of special school that needs to be saved from the Labour policy of 'inclusion' which effectively abandons children with special needs to cope in mainstream schools.

“This visit represents a pat on the back for the tremendous work done for children with special needs by the school and the remarkable work done by the headteacher, Gary Smith.”

Essex County Council has stated it is committed to finding the best schooling option for “each and every child” in the county.

“When The Leas School closed, we made a promise to all parents that a place at a special school would be available for each former Leas pupil should they wish to take it.”

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