Tory speaks of struggle to get son into special school

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The Independent Online

It could be "easier to get out of Colditz" than to secure a place at a special school, David Cameron, the shadow Education Secretary, said yesterday.

It could be "easier to get out of Colditz" than to secure a place at a special school, David Cameron, the shadow Education Secretary, said yesterday.

Mr Cameron, whose son suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, called for a moratorium on special school closures until a full survey of services had been made. At the Alderman Knight special school in Tewkesbury, which is under threat of closure, the Tory spokesman accused the Government of ignoring the will of parents by integrating children into mainstream education. Ninety special schools had closed since 1997, with the loss of 6,000 places, he said.

Mr Cameron, who has not ruled out a bid for the Conservative leadership, spoke about his experience finding a special school place for his three-year-old son Ivan. He said: "The process of getting into a special school is so complicated. I once lost my temper with an educational psychologist, saying it was easier to get out of Colditz than into a special school. My son could not possibly go to a mainstream school. It is highly important that people can go to special schools and that parents can make that choice.

"I wanted to get him into a special school that was threatened with closure. I had a debate about it in the House of Commons and I was inundated from all parts of the country with letters saying the same thing. We got him into a wonderful special school that does great things and yet it was under threat of closure."

While inclusion was an excellent theory, it was being badly applied in practice, Mr Cameron said. "It is right to include children where you can but it is not right for all children, all the time. The pendulum has swung too far in favour of inclusion."

The Education minister Lord Adonis said: "We said in our manifesto that we would carry out an audit of special school provision. That audit is under way.

"In terms of numbers of places in special schools, the number of places has declined only very slightly since 1997. The number of schools has reduced by more, but for the most part, that's due to reorganisations, including bringing schools together. There has been major new investment in this area."

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