No issue with special schools, just Lancs County Council

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I read with interest Shaun Jukes’ letter regarding the provision of schooling for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Within his letter, the chairman of Lancashire’s Special School Headteachers’ Association discussed my participation in a House of Commons debate regarding the issue of special education – a debate I did my upmost to secure. However, what Mr Jukes failed to mention was my position on the issue, or the fact I did not name or comment on the provision provided by any individual school within the county.

I have no issues with any individual schools within the county; my complaint is purely with the Education Department at Lancashire County Council, and the displeasing way they are treating a number of children and their families in Burnley.

I agree with Mr Jukes’ statement that the focus of the debate were ‘the specific cases’ of ‘young people with autism’. However, I strongly disagree with his view that the number of cases is of key importance; I find it completely unacceptable that Lancashire County Council insist on sending these ‘small number’ of children to schools their families find inappropriate. Why Mr Jukes, should these young children accept an education their parents, who are taxpayers and contribute to the system, feel is unsuitable for their children?

Mr Jukes is correct that I used the words ‘scrapheap’ and ‘fester’, yet he fails to elaborate; if Mr Jukes had quoted Hansard correctly, he would have realised I was referring to the children being left out of education, not in education, as he wrongly tried to imply.

As I have confirmed above, my argument is not with individual schools but instead with the way they are being managed by Lancashire County Council.

I would have thought that, following the back-bench debate in the House of Commons on the issue, and the publicity that followed, interest would have been shown by senior members of Lancashire County Council’s administration – but alas not a word from any of them. The CEO, Director of Education & Children’s services and the political leader of the council have remained silent, preferring to hide behind the results of tribunals than answer to the distress they are causing my constituents.

I hugely admire the work of the special education schools within my constituency, and within our county as a whole, hence why I have never expressed disagreement with an individual school or suggested they are not performing to the highest standards.

I work hard with constituents to solve any concerns they have, preferring to achieve an outcome that is satisfactory to all parties, rather than ignore the fears of ‘a small number’.

To me, any number is too much, and as such I will continue to strive until Burnley can proudly state it can offer exemplary special education to all children who require it, with the full support of all the families concerned. Perhaps, if Mr Jukes is as interested in ‘every child’ as he says he is, he should meet the families who are concerned, and join them in finding a conclusion to their problems - rather than simply trying to discredit my efforts and the efforts of my constituents.

Gordon Birtwistle MP