SPECIAL schools claim they have been labelled ‘scrapheaps’ in a debate on autistic children’s schooling.
It comes after Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle took on the campaign of three families who say their children are not being educated.
In response, an open letter to the media from the Lancashire Association of Special School Headteachers defended schools across East Lancashire.
Mr Birtwistle had raised the cases of three young autistic constituents in parliament who he claimed had been ‘left on the scrapheap’ because they were not allowed their choice of school, not in reference to the quality of special schools.
Now Lancashire’s special schools have penned a defence to “criticisms and inflammatory comments” made during the debate.
Signatories include Astley Park in Chorley, Tor View in Haslingden, White Ash in Oswaldtwistle, Pendle View in Colne and Pendle Community School in Nelson. They pointed out all Lancashire’s special schools are Ofsted rated Good or Outstanding.
In parliament last week Mr Birtwistle said a 17-year-old Burnley girl he called Chloe has been on suicide watch “due to being repeatedly failed by Lancashire County Council since the age of 11.”
The MP then highlighted the case of Honey Crossley, 12, who had been “moved six months into her final year of primary school due to trauma and threat of exclusion”.
The debate began when nine-year-old Jack Entwistle’s family unsuccessfully battled education chiefs in court, objecting to their choice of school for him.
Special schools hit out at Mr Birtwistle in the open letter and described the vocabulary used in his campaign as “public vilification”.
However Mr Birtwistle says he stands by his comments and said they were directed at Lancashire County Council, not individual schools.
The letter states: “Comments made by parents and Mr Birtwistle have included grossly offensive statements describing special schools as “a scrapheap” where children with disabilities are left to “fester”.
“This grotesque character-isation has no basis in fact and is deeply offensive to the children who attend our schools, their parents and the staff who dedicate their lives to special education.”
Mr Birtwistle responded: “These children are on the scrapheap if they are not going to school. Jack hasn’t been to school in three months and Chloe is now unable to be schooled - her case is horrific. I haven’t mentioned the performance of any school - just that parents are being forced to use a specific school they do not want and the child does not want.”