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Special Educational Needs (Warrington)

Volume 546: debated on Monday 18 June 2012

12. What steps he is taking to support the provision of better facilities for special needs education in Warrington. (111844)

I refer the hon. Lady to the written reply that I gave to her on 12 June about our plans to reform the system for identifying, assessing and supporting children and young people who are disabled or have special educational needs from birth into adulthood, independent living and the world of work. We are funding organisations to improve local support, and introducing measures to improve the knowledge and expertise of teachers and support staff.

In the light of those fine words, why is the Minister’s Department jeopardising Warrington’s plans for a special needs campus—including much-needed post-16 provision—by threatening to use the buildings for a free school unless a planning application is allowed elsewhere? Is it legal to interfere in planning matters in that way? It is certainly immoral to jeopardise the education of some of the most disabled children in the borough.

We have sought, and are continuing to seek, a solution with Warrington council that will allow it to proceed with improving the provision for special needs pupils at Foxwood and Green Lane schools, which I understand are the two schools that the hon. Lady is referring to, while meeting the strong demand from parents for the establishment of the King’s school Woolston, a free school. I understand that the council’s executive board is meeting this evening to discuss the free school’s use of two sites, and I am hoping for a positive outcome that will allow the free school to open as planned this September while also enabling the council to take forward its special school plans.