Mother of boy with autism takes her fight against closure of special schools back to British Prime Minister|
LONDON, UK: The mother of an autistic son fighting to stop the closure of special schools took her fight back to the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on April 7 – having recently tackled him on live television.
Maria Hutchings, 43, tackled Blair in February, demanding he reverse his policy of phasing out moderate special-needs schools.
On April 7, she visited Downing Street to lend her support to campaigners who petitioned all three major British political parties to stop the closure of special schools in Liverpool.
The Watergate Action Group and lobby group, Pencil, collected 1,000 signatures in protest against the proposed closures.
Accompanied by her 10-year-old son, John Paul, Hutchings strode up to Number 10 to deliver a present to the Prime Minister’s youngest son, Leo. John Paul carried the wrapped gift of a Harry Potter uniform which included a note for Blair asking him to act on her demands.
Referring to the recent campaign success of the celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, she said: “I may not be Jamie Oliver or Ant and Dec, but I demand that the Prime Minister listens to what we have to say.”
Hutchings said that the last time she had seen the Prime Minister he had asked her to go away and gather the facts and come back to him.“I have done what he wanted me to do – now I demand to see some action,” she said. “We are not asking for a single penny. We just want them to leave the special schools alone and let them get on with helping the children who need them.”
The housewife, from Benfleet in Essex, said her son could now read, write and talk after being taught at the specialist school, Cedar Hall, in Essex.
“He is a balanced, lovely child and it is this school that has done this,” she said. “The teachers are there, the building is there, the expertise is there – just leave them alone.”
Hutchings said the government’s policy of getting rid of the schools to create “inclusion” for disabled children was in fact simply a major money saving scheme.
“Inclusion may be fine for physically disabled children but not for those who suffer conditions such as attention-deficit disorder,” she said. “At least 90 per cent have already failed in the mainstream system. It doesn’t work.”
She made a direct appeal to teachers working in ordinary schools to support her fight.
“I want teachers to make a stand. This is a major, major issue. Children with special needs will disrupt the class, and teachers have admitted to me that they are unable to do their jobs properly because of it.”
Hutchings rose to prominence in February when she accosted the Prime Minister during a studio discussion in Birmingham on Channel Five’s programme, The Wright Stuff.
She stood up and declared that Blair was talking “rubbish” when he commented on the need to maintain school discipline.
She was granted an audience with the Prime Minister after the show but it was clear her intervention had unsettled the normally smooth-talking Blair.
Copies of the petition were distributed amongst all three of the major political parties.
(Source: Press Association, April 7, 2005)