Lancashire special schools are great

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We write to express our serious concerns about recent reporting about special education in Lancashire.

The debate, started by Gordon Birtwistle, MP for Burnley, has focused on the specific cases of a small number of young people with autism, but has included implicit criticism of all special education in the county.

It is not appropriate to go into details of the specific cases here, where parents have argued their children should be sent to private schools, other than to note that when these cases have been heard by a SEND Tribunal, the tribunal has been found in favour of the decisions taken by Lancashire County Council to offer places in its maintained special schools, indicating clearly the tribunal does not have reservations about the ability of these schools to meet the needs of the children.

The more important issue here is that comments made by parents and Mr Birtwistle have included grossly offensive statements about the council’s special schools, describing them as a “scrapheap” where children with disabilities are left to “fester”.

This grotesque characterisation, reported unchallenged in some media outlets, has no basis in fact and is deeply offensive to the children who attend our schools, their parents and the staff who dedicate their lives to the education of children with special educational needs and disabilities.

It is a completely untrue, distorted description that bears no relation to the reality of life in our schools. Lancashire has 23 special schools which are all rated as Good or Outstanding by Ofsted.

They are bright, happy places where highly-skilled staff provide an excellent education for their pupils, ensuring every child makes the most of their potential, however complex their needs.

We would invite all Lancashire’s MPs to visit their local special schools so they can see first-hand how wide of the mark these comments are.

Until then, we would ask for the debate to be conducted using more measured language, and for an end to the public vilification of individual officers, which is completely unjustified and extremely upsetting for those involved.

Lancashire has an excellent reputation nationally for the quality of its special education and that reputation does not deserve to be kicked through the mud as a political football.

Shaun Jukes

Chairman Lancashire Special School Headteachers’ Association