Tories lobby for special schools to be saved

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The Independent Online

Around 90 special schools have closed since 1997. The commission will be chaired by Sir Robert Balchin, who masterminded the Tories' grant-maintained school policy in the 1990s. It will take evidence from, among others, Baroness Warnock, who led the movement for placing children with learning disabilities in mainstream schools, but who has recently said the process has gone too far.

The shadow Secretary of State for Education, David Cameron, whose three-year-old son, Ivan, has cerebral palsy, will cite what he terms Lady Warnock's "stunning recantation" as evidence of the need for the commission.

"There has been a huge growth in the number of children diagnosed with special needs," he will say. "Our better understanding of autism, for example, has shown that rather than five in every 10,000 children having autism as was thought in 1980 the true number is 60 in every 10,000."

The commission will look into whether government guidance on special school closures should be changed and whether the law should be changed to remove what Mr Cameron claims is the "current bias in favour of inclusion".

Under new legislation, all pupils have the right to be taught in a mainstream school. The Government is conducting an audit of existing special needs provision, but Mr Cameron will say this is too "limited".

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