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Spotlight falls on special needs schools

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EDUCATION chiefs have begun a review of the county’s special schools, which together look after about 2,800 pupils with learning problems and disabilities.

The review will consider whether there are better ways of organising the education for pupils with special needs. The county council has insisted that the wholesale closure of special schools in not on the agenda and the overall aim is to provide a “more flexible and responsive service.”

However, one option may be for schools to merge or expand and for mainstream schools to accept more pupils with special needs.

The review will also examine ways of curbing the spiralling costs associated with special schools.

These costs have risen partly because medical advances have meant a greater number of severely disabled children now survive into adulthood. At the same time, Kent has a mounting shortfall of places for autistic pupils and those with behavioural difficulties, severe emotional needs and complex medical conditions.

Currently, Kent spends £7million each year on places for such pupils in the independent sector. Education officials believe that sum could be reduced. The review will also consider ways in which Kent could reduce the number of pupils who are placed in schools outside the county.

KCC says it will consult widely and all parents and teachers will have the chance to have their say. The review will also be put under the spotlight by backbench councillors on KCC’s Policy Scrutiny committee.

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