Pupil shortage hits inclusive schools

Inclusive schools could be faced with dwindling numbers because
parents believe they are inferior, a director of social services
and health has warned.

John Weeks, director of social services and health at Cheshire
Council, said falling numbers of children in the county had created
a “market” in school places.

Additionally, parents were choosing not to send their children to
inclusive schools, which also cater for behavioural difficulties
and disabilities.

Weeks said “two of the most inclusive schools” in his local
authority area were “experiencing severe problems because of
declining numbers”.

If mirrored throughout the country, the trend could undermine
proposed reforms of children’s services. The Children Bill now
going through parliament stresses the importance of inclusion and
creates a director of children’s services responsible for education
and children’s social care.

The director would be based in an educational setting and run
combined health, education and social services with other services.

Weeks said that parents had a powerful influence and that over time
inclusive schools could struggle to maintain their numbers.

He added that there had been a decline in the number of
schoolchildren in his council area and it had been estimated there
would be a greater decline in the future. “It means we are going to
have to take out school places. If we are not careful we will end
up taking out places in less successful schools,” he said.

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