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Peter Smith, general secretary of the 150,000-strong Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) has given a cautio...
Peter Smith, general secretary of the 150,000-strong Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) has given a cautious welcome to the government's Green Paper, Excellence for all children - Meeting Special Educational Needs, published today.

He said: 'We welcome the universal entitlement for all pupils. We welcome the streamlining of procedures. We welcome the government taking seriously an area which is too often neglected.

'However, as the government supports setting of all pupils, these proposals could mean that there will in effect be miniature special schools within the mainstream. The question has to be whether that is special education on the cheap, and, if it is, that is a shoddy offer to parents. On the other hand, if the government has the money to provide the support they need, it could be an early Christmas present.

'There are pupils whose emotional problems make it impossible for them to cope with a school community. These children will float into the lowest stream or the lowest set, working alongside slow learners. While the rights of such children are being met, what happens to the rights of the children whose education may be disrupted, and their parents?

Commenting on the suggestion in the Green Paper that a target of 2 per cent might be set on the proportion of pupils being statemented, he said: 'We are not yet fully convinced that parents and children will get what they are entitled to expect. Has the government got enough money in the pot?'
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