A disabled Conservative parliamentary candidate has defended his party’s policies on inclusive education, despite admitting that his own education was probably damaged by attending a special school.
His party’s policies on special schools were bracketed with those of the BNP and UKIP, during an election hustings organised by the disabled people’s organisation Inclusion London.
Tara Flood, chief executive of the Alliance for Inclusive Education, told the event she was “extremely disappointed” by the “very low aspirations” of all the political parties on the education of disabled people.
She compared the Conservative education policy with those of UKIP and the BNP, both of which are campaigning on manifestos that call for the movement towards including disabled children in mainstream schools to be rolled back.
The Conservative Party has called in its manifesto for a “moratorium on the ideologically-driven closure of special schools”, and pledges to “end the bias towards the inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream schools”.
Adrian Berrill-Cox, the Conservative candidate for Islington North, told the audience of disabled activists that he had attended a special school as a child.
When he was then asked if he supported mainstream education, he said: “I support both forms of education.
“I wish I had been in mainstream education personally because I think that was probably why I did so badly in my early career and why I picked up as soon as I got into mainstream education.”
Despite only obtaining four O-levels at the special school, he later obtained a law degree, became a barrister and now manages a team of eight lawyers for the Financial Services Authority.
When challenged to explain why his party did not therefore support mainstream education, he said that allowing special schools for people who wanted them “does not mean that we do not prefer the idea of disabled people being in mainstream education”.
He had earlier told the hustings that a Conservative government would “intend to get over the ideological objections to special needs schools” as “parents must have choice”.
20 April 2010