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Special schools need to stay says mother

PUBLISHED: 10:23 30 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:37 30 June 2010

A CAISTER special school with over 100 pupils would be at risk if radical proposals from a disability rights organisation are adopted by government.

The Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People (NCODP) is campaigning for special needs children to be educated in mainstream schools rather than special schools in the belief they would be educated better and would be able to integrate more easily into society.

A CAISTER special school with over 100 pupils would be at risk if radical proposals from a disability rights organisation are adopted by government.

The Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People (NCODP) is campaigning for special needs children to be educated in mainstream schools rather than special schools in the belief they would be educated better and would be able to integrate more easily into society.

But Sue Humphrey, chairman of governors at John Grant special school in Caister, slammed the plans as “absolute rubbish” and said mainstream schools would not be able to cope with the demands imposed by children with physical and learning difficulties.

The education reforms were part of NCODP's manifesto, launched at a meeting at the Kings Centre in Queen Anne's Road, Yarmouth last week, and attended by 30 disabled people and relatives, Labour's Tony Wright, Conservative Brandon Lewis and Simon Partridge, Liberal Democratic.

This week, Carl Grint, NCODP's communications officer, said his organisation supported changes on a national level and not just locally affecting the Caister school, which accepts pupils from all over Norfolk.

He added the transition to mainstream teaching would happen over a long period of time, but believed disabled children would achieve more than in the current “segregated” system where they are kept away from able-bodied students.

Mr Grint denied people with mental and physical disabilities were at an academic disadvantage and cited the example of Cambridge physicist Dr Stephen Hawking who has become a famous academic despite being almost completely paralysed with muscular dystrophy.

He said money that had previously funded special schools could be used to fund extra disabled facilities at mainstream schools.

“It is the concept of an individual education for everybody. It is similar to having two buses- a disabled bus and a mainstream bus. We would no longer have two buses and would make the mainstream bus accessible to as many people as possible,” Mr Grint said.

But Mrs Humphrey, whose son Luke, 25, attends John Grant School, said some of the children were so disabled they needed specialist care throughout their lives and could not communicate verbally at all, making it even more difficult for them to cope with being in a mainstream school.

She feared disabled children could be ridiculed or bullied by their able-bodied classmates.

“Personally, I like the idea where everybody's treated equally and gets an opportunity, but life is not like that and people have special needs and I think their individual needs have to be taken into account. I think that parents want their child to learn at their level,” she said.

She added since attending the Caister school her son, who suffers from severe learning difficulties and uncontrolled epilepsy, had learned new skills and was able to draw aspects of French and German culture.

The school, which has been praised by watchdog OFSTED, also enables children to participate in cooking and learn sports.

Plans are also being mooted to provide a new hydrotherapy pool at the school, which could be sited where a spa is currently.


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