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Mums in special needs protest.

Byline: By DANIEL DAVIES Western Mail

Two desperate mothers yesterday chained themselves to the railings of a school in protest against its special needs policy.

They said Oakdale Comprehensive School in Blackwood had failed to adapt the curriculum to suit their children's special educational needs.

Experts in special education needs (SEN) said Wales was failing in its provision to children across the nation.

Tim Spinks, a teacher and adviser to parents of children with SEN, said, 'There is a massive issue in Wales with providing adequate support and it is to do with funding.'

He said local education authorities often disagreed with schools on when to provide extra help to children with SEN.

He said, 'The policy of when and where to provide special needs support is set by the local authority.

'The code of practice will say the school must step in when the needs are significant or severe but it is up to the local education authority (LEA) to decide what that means.'

Specialist lawyers are inundated with parents fighting LEAs at tribunals to get their children's needs realised.

Michael Imperato at Cardiff-based Russell Jones and Walker solicitors said arguments between parents, LEAs and schools on the needs of children in Wales were very common.

He said, 'This is something that is not a one-off.

'The root of the problem is that parents don't know their rights. I think the LEAs in all areas have budgetary pressures and the trouble is something like SEN is always something that is part of the budget that is easy and tempting to shave off.

'The LEA will have its own psychologist who says things are not that bad, and if parents disagree they can go to a special needs tribunal.

'Of course, LEAs are often wrong. We win most we go to.'

Uneta Morrissey, 45, from Pontllanfraith, chained herself to Oakdale Comprehensive at 11am yesterday. She said her 15-year-old daughter Laura was one of almost 100 pupils who had not been given special education plans by the school.

Pupils with SEN must have their needs identified in a plan for teachers. This individual education plan (IEP) lets teachers know what the pupil's needs are.

A second parent, Jayne Howard, 45, from Llanfraith, said the school did not inform her that her son had been identified with SEN.

Her 14-year-old son, Mathew, is now taught at home, but his tutor was not told by the school what he needed.

Under a Welsh Assembly code of practice the school has to keep parents informed.

Mrs Howard said, 'The school has had three reminders to do something about this already.'

In a statement, new headteacher Ian Kilcoyne said Mrs Morrissey had met the LEA's director of education.

He said, 'The school cannot discuss these issues regarding pupils with special education need in public.'

A Caerphilly council spokesman said the LEA could not confirm the director of education had told Mrs Morrissey or Mrs Howard that Oakdale Comprehensive was failing to comply with guidelines on special education needs.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 3, 2004
Words:503
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