THREAT TO OUR SCHOOLS OF HOPE; Controversial Report Throws Education System for Disabled Children into Doubt

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Byline: JAMES GRYLLS

THE future of schools in Scotland which provide specialist education for disabled children has been thrown into doubt by a controversial Government report.

The schools, including some of the country's most famous and respected teaching establishments,

are widely regarded as national institutions.

They have been funded directly by the Exchequer for more than 50 years, guaranteeing their financial independence.

But the report, commissioned by the Government as part of its flagship 'social inclusion' policy, says the schools are not truly HOPE national and should therefore be funded by local authorities instead of central government.

The recommendation, which is almost certain to be adopted by the Scottish Executive, has alarmed supporters of the schools who fear local authority control will not only threaten their financial status but could even lead to their closure.

Former Scottish Secretary Lord Forsyth, who is patron of one of Scotland's seven 'special' schools, said the proposed shift

in financial control could prove disastrous.

'These schools have been wonderful institutions, some of them for more than a century. Handing control of their funding to local authorities will threaten their very survival,' he said last night.

'What the Government should be doing is protecting the future of these schools, not turning it into an unnecessary lottery.' The seven schools under threat include the world-famous Donald-son's College for the Deaf and the Royal Blind School, both in Edinburgh.

The report, written by Sheila Rid-

dell, professor of social policy (disability studies) at Glasgow University, was commissioned by the Government to examine the implications of 'social inclusion' for children with severe disabilities. …