Cameron confronted over disabled school stance

By Sam Dale

David Cameron stands accused of “segregating” disabled children after a confrontation with the father of a wheelchair user.

Jonathan Bartley began arguing with the Conservative leader over Tory plans to “end the bias towards the inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream schools”.

He told Mr Cameron he had struggled for two years to get his son, Samuel, who suffers from spina bifida, into his local school.

He claimed the current system was biased against disabled children going into mainstream schools, but that Tory proposals would make it even harder.

Mr Cameron, himself the parent of a disabled child, said he was “passionate” about helping people to choose the education that is right for them.

But Mr Bartley said: “It is the wrong way to go. You are not representing the needs of children in mainstream education. You want to segregate disabled children.

“You are saying you want to reverse the bias towards the inclusion of children in mainstream schools. At the moment there is a bias against inclusion, not a bias for it, as your manifesto says. You talk about the broken society. It nearly broke up our family getting our son into school.

“His two sisters go there, it’s our local school, we have had to struggle for two years and in the end the Secretary of State had to intervene. There is a bias against inclusion and you are saying there’s a bias for it.”

Mr Cameron replied: “I absolutely promise you that I would never do anything to make it more difficult for children to go to a mainstream school.

“At the moment, people don’t get what they want. You didn’t get what you wanted; I didn’t get what I wanted. We both had to fight. We are going to make it easier by making sure that statements (of special needs) are not provided by local education authorities, they are provided by someone separate.

“I couldn’t be more passionate about the subject. I had a hell of a battle with my own son. We have got to get the children into the school they want, whether it is mainstream or whether it is special. I want you to get what’s right for your son. It should be your choice. You shouldn’t have to battle.”