Special schools should be kept, urges disabled MP

Britain's first MP with cerebral palsy has made an impassioned plea to the Government not to close special schools in its overhaul of the education system. Paul Maynard, the Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said he hopes to inspire other people with disabilities to pursue a career in politics.

Mr Maynard believes he is the first MP to spend time in a special school, where he received speech therapy for two years and physiotherapy to help him walk.

In an interview with The Independent, he said he had faced ignorance about his condition from a young age, but had been determined to rise above the taunts. "There will always be people who will use it against you and you have to learn to deal with that," he said.

Mr Maynard, who transferred to mainstream education at the age of five and went on to obtain a first-class degree from Oxford University, said his life had been transformed by his early experience of special schools, and urged the Government to "stick up" for them.

"Because my problem was with the thighs, and their muscle development, they would strap you into tight iron callipers for several hours a day," he said.

"You had nothing to do, so I was doing all my numbers and all my reading far, far earlier than most children and very quickly learned to read and write, which was an unexpected bonus later on."

He had been dismayed by the drive over two decades to integrate children with special needs into mainstream education, and urged ministers to prevent more special schools closing.

"In the early 1980s, when I was at school, there was a flexible approach. I wish we had that flexibility now, and don't say that special schools are bad and somehow stigmatise," he said.

"They can be wrong for people, but they are not wrong for everyone just because they separate you. Sometimes that what's needed."

Mr Maynard, who also suffers from epilepsy, worked as a management consultant before gaining a job in Conservative Central Office. It was there that he decided to aim for a political career.

"I saw all around me other people being ambitious and I thought: 'Why shouldn't I push myself forward? If I think I can offer something, why shouldn't I try it?'"

Mr Maynard said he felt his condition had not been a serious issue as he broke into politics – until a few weeks before election day.

After a television interview he faced derogatory comments – including the accusation that he was drunk – on a Blackpool website. As local papers picked up the story, he was forced to explain his disability, emphasising that it did not affect his intellectual ability.

He said the comments were "not that wounding", but the row demonstrated that "the bar is always that bit higher" for disabled people entering public life.

The controversy appears not to have affected his result, with Mr Maynard achieving a 7 per cent swing to capture the seat from Labour, with a majority of 2,150.

He insisted he did not want to be a role model. "I just hope that simply by my being here, in the House of Commons, people who may be nervous about getting into politics are not put off by any fear of what might happen during the campaign."

Mr Maynard, 34, has already delivered his maiden speech and made his first intervention at Prime Minister's Question Time.

He said he had set himself a simple test of whether he had helped to tackle prejudice: "I hope I can tackle it by not being remembered as the MP who had cerebral palsy, but being remembered for something utterly unconnected to that, some other contribution to public life."

Like other new MPs, he found the lack of an office a challenge – he was finally allocated one last week.

"I have found it really, really tiring staggering around with boxes of this, that and the other and piles of mail and nowhere to put it."

Only one problem linked to his condition has arisen – when the Tory whips issued him with a BlackBerry: its keyboard is too small for him to use.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebal palsy is a catch-all term for a wide range of neurological conditions that affect movement. It can be spotted in babies, but its symptoms are often mild and go unnoticed until later childhood. It affects one in every 400 children born in the UK. The condition has a variety of causes, including difficulties before and during birth. It damages the motor control centres of the brain, affecting co-ordination. The condition does not tend to become more severe in later life, but there is no known cure.

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?