Monday, January 08, 2007

Special Needs Education - Royal School's MP Attacks Minister

The Member of Parliament representing Margate's Royal School for Deaf Children has attacked Cabinet Minister Ruth Kelly for her "two-faced attitude" towards special needs education.

Speaking on the Commons` first day back at Westminster after the Christmas recess, Roger Gale said:

"So far as I am concerned any parent should have the right to act and use whatever resources are at their disposal in the best interests of their children. To that extent I have no problem with Ms. Kelly's decision to send her child to a fee-paying school.

Successive education Ministers, and Ms Kelly was one such, representing this Government have, though, done untold damage to Special Education Needs provision and the Royal School for Deaf Children in my constituency is a prime example of how Government policy can, through Ministerial vandalism, wreck centres of excellence.

In the name of "inclusion" Mr. Blunkett instigated what amounted to a vendetta against special schools. As a result, many children have been compelled, under wholly inappropriate conditions and with inadequate support and financial resource, to attend mainstream schools while specialist state and private schools have been starved of placements and funding. As a result, superb establishments with dedicated and highly trained staff have been forced to close, merge or, as in the case of the RSDC, downsize.

Skills have been lost and partially qualified or unqualified staff have taken over responsibilities that others have studied for years to be able to satisfy.

The RSDC is not the only North Thanet School to suffer. In Herne Bay the Hearing Impaired Unit at Hampton Primary School, a state school, was, as a result of Officers bending to DFeS diktat, effectively destroyed and a small but brilliant team dispersed.

These facilities, once lost, may never be restored and it is for this reason that there is a lack of opportunity to meet the needs of those like Ms. Kelly who suddenly find that they have to satisfy a domestic demand.

Basically, this Government, rotten to the very core, is saying "What the State provides is good enough for you but its not good enough for us".

I hope and believe that an incoming Conservative administration will first halt and then reverse the decline. "Inclusion" is a fine theory but the theory and the reality of real children are not always compatible"


Pedagogue said...

Roger Gale has put the issue succinctly. As a teacher in main-stream schooling, I have watched in horror as we have had to assimilate 'special needs' children who really should be on the receiving end of specialist help and support. With the best will in the world, I am unable to give much personal attention to each of 30 pupils in a 45 minute period, let alone the considerable help that our most vulnerable pupils need. The policy of 'inclusion' has not worked despite the proliferation of SENCO's and LSAs and HTLA's with little formal training. The cost of this largely 'mum's army' has probably ended up costing far more than the cost of running specialist schools with expert staff. Our most vulnerable children have been done a major dis-service. Whilst I have no objection about Ruth Kelly making the choice in the best interests of her child, what she has done is to make a very public admission that the main stream state schools are not able to cope with simple dyslexia problems. In other words the very policy she has had responsibility for has failed her child and countless others. Will this Labour Govt now admit their policy has been a disaster?

There are clear similarities between this misguided policy and the Tory policy(continued by Labour for 10 years) of "mental health care in the community".

Our most vulnerable, need better from politicians!

James Maskell said...

I agree with 6:03pm. Those with special needs need help outside of mainstream education. However Labour hates the idea of splitting people up, thus their opposition to Grammar schools.

Schools such as Dame Janet have to cope with higher than average levels of special needs pupils but still send pupils to Grammar schools (I was one of five in my year) and its a credit to the teaching staff there. Unfortunately I know when I was there they were also sending a lot more pupils next door to Conyngham/Ramsgate School... Separating pupils according to ability/need isnt segregation, despite what Labour might say.

Anonymous said...

If Ruth Kelly had sent her child to a local school in Tower Hamlets, it would have been assured of a good multi-cultural and Islamic environment. Might that have been part of the problem that nobody dares to comment on in the papers?

Cllr David Green said...

My position has always been this:

a) I think that MPs should wherever possible live 'real life'
themselves and not coccoon themselves: use public transport, the local GP, NHS direct, etc., and don't say what your job is when you're using any of these services. Realistically, though, if you earn £60K/year you don't have the same pressures as a single mum on £10K, and they should always keep that in mind.

b) There is nothing inconsistent or hypocritical in wanting to
improve services and doing your best for your family with the
situation as it is. I would not think more of any politician who
said, "Daddy/Mummy is an important person so although you are
suffering where you are and I could afford to help, I'm not going to because it would be embarrassing to me".

c) The objective is to make public services so good that the issue
doesn't arise for anyone, and when she was Education Minister Ms
Kelly sharply increased spending on special needs in mainstream
schools. In this specific case, Ms Kelly has always sent all her
children to state schools, but has been advised that her mildly
disabled child would benefit from a period in a private school
offering intensive support for dyslexia, after which she'll return to the state sector. She's declined to apply for LEA funding. If these facts are correctly reported, then I think she would be wrong to do anything else.

I don't take this view only for Labour MPs: Tory parents have the
same right to do what they see as their best for their kids,
especially if they are disabled in any way. I don't think it matters
in the least that Mr Cameron and many of his circle went to Eton, so long as it doesn't make them downgrade the importance of supporting the national schools system to the point that such choices aren't necessary.

Anonymous said...

You miss the essential point here, Cllr Green. By accepting that the state provision is not meeting her child's needs, Ruth Kelly is effectively saying that Labour's education policy of 'inclusion' of special needs in mainstream schools is not working. As a Govt minister overseeing this policy until recently, it is as a damning judgement on her own Govt's misguided policy. It is as arrogant in its way as "let them eat cake" from Marie Antoinette!