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The Tide is Turning
on SEN Provision

After to years of battling for our children’s future trying to get anyone to listen, it is nice to have a variety of GOOD NEWS headlines.

Victory - albeit only a partial one

On Tuesday 10th January the Gloucestershire Schools Organisation Committee voted to endorse the policy of the new Conservative controlled County Council and reverse the decission of the previous administration to close Alderman Knight and Belmont Special Schools.

This is a great end to a campaign spanning around 9 years to keep these schools open to serve pupils with Moderate Learning Difficulties who could not cope in mainstream schooling.

Unfortunately this was only a partial victory. Earlier we saw Bownham Park School closed leaving no proper provision in a large area of the county and in the Forest of Dean, Dean Hall and Oakdene Schools were merged creating a new school with little provision for MLD pupils.

Still it does show that if we keep fighting long enough and hard enough, people will listen to us. This battle was not won by the politicians, though we are extremely grateful to many of them for listening and giving their support. It was the overwhelming support of the public that was finally translated into a massive swing at the last elections to Conservative and Independent Council candidates opposing Special School Closures.

Don't give up, keep fighting!

Alderman Knight and Belmont Schools
Closures Halted

Everyone was expecting some backlash against the ruling Labour / Liberal Democrat Coalition in the County Council Elections over the closure of the County’s Special Schools, but being on a General Election Day when most people tend to vote for the same parties both nationally and locally, few could have predicted the final outcome.

The Conservatives swept to an overall majority and independent candidates in Tewkesbury and Brockworth opposed to Special School closures were also elected.

We are pleased to report that the new Council Cabinet has been quick to honour its election pledges and at it first meeting voted to halt the closures of Alderman Knight and Belmont Special Schools. They are also committed to producing an new SEN Development plan. With Councillors Jackie Hall and Gordon Shurmer, who have worked closely with us over the past five years in key Cabinet posts, we are confident that this time the working party will involve all interested groups and bring forward proposals for the benefit of the education of pupils with all ranges of ability.

Warnock admits Inclusion’s “disasterous legacy”

SEN Policy has finally a national political issue and in a surprising about turn Baroness Warnock, viewed by many as the architect of inclusion in this country, has called for an independent committee to conduct a radical review of the current system and suggested strengthening the role of Special Schools.

In an interview with the BBC she said  “I think it (inclusion) has gone too far. It was a sort of bright idea in the 1970s, but now it’s become some kind of mantra ... it isn’t really working”

We welcome Baraoness Warnock’s change of heart. What a pity it took her 30 years to realise it was going wrong.

Cameron visits Alderman Knight School
to launch Tory SEN Policy

The new Conservative Education Spokesman, David Cameron, visited Tewkesbury’s Alderman Knight Special School to launch his party’s SEN Policy calling for parents to have a “proper choice between mainstream and special schools.”

He Said, “At the moment LEAs feel they are meant to push children into mainstream schools. It is completely harrowing and agonising for these families.”

“Of course we all want our children to be included in as many aspects of mainstream life as possible, but parents know their children need other help too, often from special schools. We need a profound overhaul of the system.”

He also called for the closure of special schools to be stopped, arguing they are the better option for many children, particularly those with conditions such as autism.

A few Thank Yous

To current and former County Councillors Susan Roberston, Brian Calway, Gordon Shurmer and Jackie Hall for not just being prepared to listen, but also taking the time to find out.

To The Gloucestershire Echo and The Gloucester Citizen for giving us a platform and some brilliant editorials.

To MPs Laurence Robertson, Mark Harper and David Cameron for giving us a voice in the House of Commons.

To Maria Hutchings for seizing the opportunity, embarrassing the Prime Minister and making us front page news.

To the Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail for most of the national coverage we received.

Choice and Inclusion in Special Education

The GSSPL welcomes the Conservative Party’s pledge to halt the closure of more special schools and will continue to put pressure on other political parties to adopt a similar position. To this end we have joined forces with other like minded groups of parents throughout the country to form a national body CAISE.

This is currently in a very early phase, but has already set up an e-mail group on yahoo to keep concerned parents in touch with developments in different areas. You can find this at

More recent news items.

What is the GSSPL ?

The League has been formed principally by the parents of special needs children to oppose the proposed plans by Gloucestershire County Council to close all MLD (Moderate Learning Difficulties) Special Schools and 25% of the EBD (Emotional & Behavioural Difficulties) special schools, under the guise of increasing inclusion for SEN (Special Educational Needs) children.

It must be emphasised that we are not opposed to increased inclusive educational opportunities for special needs children as an option or choice and where it will be to the benefit of the child, but not at the expense and sacrifice of special needs schools. We believe fervently that there are a significant number of children for whom inclusion is not an opportunity or option and that there will always be a need for the retention of a suitable special school placement and environment to meet their needs.

In 1997 the Gloucestershire County Council Education Committee set up a working party to revise the SEN policy for the county. This working party sat for 18 months deliberating and forming the recommendations that are now the Counties SEN Development Plan. They did this in full knowledge of the Green Paper "Excellence for all Children", but more critically, during this crucial period of policy formulation, the working party did not consult or seek the opinion of a single parent or child from the counties special needs schools. We feel strongly that throughout our views and opinions have been ignored when all along they should have been given principal consideration. It is our children and our families that will have to contend with any changes and alternative forms of provision.

We have voiced our objections to the proposals at every opportunity through every means available to us throughout the consultation period. When the Education Committee voted to accept the proposals as policy in November 1999 we avowed to continue the fight. We realise that we are not alone in our wish not to be liberated. Many local authorities in the country are misusing the Green Paper as an excuse to close special schools and they are wrapping a financial expedient in as many misleading moral ethical excuses as they can think up. We welcome contact with any others who are suffering similar problems and may eventually form a national forum to counter this wave of hypocrisy. Our special needs children and the special needs children of the future deserve the right to a suitable education and the right environment to cater to their special needs. This is not an "Either or" debate we will always need both forms of provision. Inclusion is not a panacea and they have not come up with a cure for special needs. Parents in this county have the right to choose a school for their children for Gender and Religious considerations. We even have the right to a special school for children that are seen as academically gifted. Let's not apply double standards for children just because they are special needs. These children are some of the most vulnerable in our society and they need every opportunity that we can give them.


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