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New Policy Could Lead To Closure Of Specialized Schools, Party Official Says
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 1, 2004

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND--Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble said Monday that many of Northern Ireland's specialized schools may be closed because of the government's new policy which promotes including children with disabilities in regular classrooms.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Trimble warned that the new Special Educational Needs and Disability legislation could put too much pressure on mainstream schools, which offer special education units he called "half-way houses", to serve children with "severe learning difficulties".

"That means that children with moderate learning difficulties are being encouraged to attend mainstream schools without specialist units, which could be to the detriment of the children," he said. "Furthermore, we need to bear in mind that these specialist units and halfway-house arrangements are add-ons to schools and are often housed in mobile classrooms, so there is a problem with funding such facilities."

Department of Education officials said the policy is designed to give students with disabilities in Northern Ireland the same rights as their counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales.

"The legislation aims to give increased rights to parents to have their children educated in mainstream schools, where that is their wish," the unnamed spokesperson was quoted as saying. "The vast majority of children with special educational needs are already educated in mainstream schools."

The spokesperson also said that there were no plans at this time to do away with specialized schools.

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