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pounds 9M bill to school pupils over border pounds 9M; Bosses defend transport and tuition fees.


EDUCATION chiefs are spending millions of pounds every year sending children to school in neighbouring counties.

North Wales councils forked out around pounds 9m last year in transport, residency and tuition fees to educate their pupils at out-of-county schools and special needs units.

Denbighshire County Council spent pounds 2.2m, and over the last five years has paid more than pounds 12.1m sending youngsters elsewhere to be educated.

Over the same period, Wrexham's total was pounds 8.6m, Conwy pounds 7.5m, Anglesey pounds 4.7m, Flintshire pounds 3.9m, and Gwynedd pounds 2m.

Much of the money pays to bus children with special needs to specialist centres - such as pupils from Denbighshire, who travel to Ysgol y Gogarth in Craig y Don, near Llandudno.

Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones said the number of children with special needs bussed out of Denbighshire could be as few as 11, and questioned why the figures were so high.

One Denbighshire parent, who wished to remain anonymous, is annoyed her child has to travel for up to 90 minutes on a minibus to be educated in a different county.

She said: "My child loves it at her school, the staff are brilliant and do a good job. However, the journey back and to is often too much.

"What's needed is a proper and more wide-ranging provision for children with special needs in Denbighshire, and other authorities in North Wales." Ms Jones said the closure of Hyfrydle residential centre for children with autism, which shut its doors just months after opening in Denbigh, won't have helped.

"Transporting children with special needs out of the area is not ideal, though there are obviously cases where there is no choice," she said. "Taking these youngsters out of their surroundings because of their needs can make things more complicated for them." A spokesman for Denbighshire said: "We take the education of all our pupils very seriously. Some students require specialist care which is not available in Denbighshire. To ensure they receive the best education for their needs, they attend the most appropriate out of county provision available. " "All cases are looked at closely on an individual basis and the amount of money spent is appropriate to ensure that the education needs of an individual child are met." A Conwy spokeswoman said it only placed individuals out of the area if they need highly specialised placements that they can't provide, while Gwynedd's education department said: "The majority of Gwynedd pupils who have special educational needs are delivered by special schools at Ysgol Pendalar, Caernarfon, and Ysgol Hafon Lon in Y Ffor ,and specialists units at Ty Meirion and Ty Aran in Dolgellau.

"These schools provide an excellent level of education for over 120 pupils.. "However, due to the particular specialist needs of some pupils, it is necessary for those pupils with acute special educational needs to attend the regional North Wales facility for children with autism at Ysgol Bron Dyffryn in Denbighshire.

"The disabilities of a small number of Gwynedd pupils require specialist provision which is not available within Gwynedd. Pupils are then located in the most appropriate facilities." Opinion - Page 14
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 20, 2009
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