Letter: Special needs of pupils ignored

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The Independent Online
Sir: Not only badly behaved children are excluded from school, and often their special needs are inadequately met ("More parents support `unruly pupil' protest", 11 September). While researching precedents nationwide for my daughter, who has severe ME, I encountered several exclusions or attempted exclusions of seriously ill pupils with excellent behaviour records and sound academic motivation. Most had never so much as answered a teacher back.

If the child can be proved to be able to cope with some education, and the local education authority agrees the school placement to be suitable, disregard of the special needs code of practice to this extent is probably illegal. The reason could be league tables or money.

Also, the provision of home tuition for sick children is a national disgrace, in that it is frequently limited to three hours a week because the local authorities are so underfunded. These children need eight hours a week at least to deliver the equality of opportunity to which they are entitled under the 1993 Education Act.

Many authorities are unwilling to combine tuition at home with partial school attendance, which these children badly need to assist re-integration into normal life and often to help their medical recovery.

One has to overcome a similar reluctance to provide the help to the 16- 19 age group which the law seems to intend. One must ask why, if some allegedly badly behaved primary pupils merit instant expenditure at a rate of pounds 14,000 per annum?

I have now, I hope, solved my daughter's education needs, but then I am a teacher very familiar with special needs legislation, and I have been well supported. Many other parents of exam candidates with chronic ill health cannot say the same, and they should contact their MP and the relevant pressure group, to establish precedents in law.

Dr CAROL BLYTH

Wendover

Buckinghamshire

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