How about an apology for school?

I AM writing to express my outrage at the situation that has been allowed to develop at Spring Common School. Less than five years ago this school sailed through its Ofsted inspection with ease and was a fine local example of the provision of special edu

I AM writing to express my outrage at the situation that has been allowed to develop at Spring Common School.

Less than five years ago this school sailed through its Ofsted inspection with ease and was a fine local example of the provision of special education. The response in your paper of Helen Whiter (January 17), the director of learning at Cambridgeshire County Council, was wholly inadequate.

I wrote to what was then the head of education at Shire Hall in 2003 on four separate occasions letting him know my concerns about developments at the school. On each occasion there was no response, and I had to ask our MP to write to him on my behalf to elicit a response of any kind. I have a deep file of correspondence confirming all of this.

Cambridgeshire County Council therefore knew years ago that things may have been awry at the school but chose to ignore the concerns of people such as myself. Shouldn't then Helen Whiter apologise on behalf of the council for what has happened at the school?


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How about saying sorry to the children whose education has been damaged by what has happened? How about saying sorry to the parents of vulnerable children whose chances in life have been irreparably damaged? How about saying sorry for the tens of thousands of pounds of Council Tax payers' money that has been thrown away by the school? How about saying sorry to those teachers who worked at the school and had their careers blighted by pitifully poor management techniques - and maybe even trying to put right that injustice?

However, while faceless well-paid bureaucrats might acknowledge "areas of weakness" they don't do "sorry". Of course no apologies will be issued. Instead, empty platitudes will be uttered.

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Cambridgeshire County Council is as culpable as anybody else in the debacle at this school. They bear responsibility for the waste - in terms of money, equipment and people - and weasel words will not suffice. Indeed, what has happened at the school is merely a symptom of a much greater self-satisfied malaise within the council.

Literally tens of thousands of pounds have been frittered away by the school in recent years - while parents of children with special educational needs have to wait years for basic respite care to be provided. We are also told to expect spending cuts in this year's budget.

Not wishing to be out-performed by neighbouring Northamptonshire County Council, which has decimated support and care for the disabled, guess what's top of the list for the projected cuts in Shire Hall's budget? Yes, that's right, respite provision cuts for families with disabled children.

Even the most ardent supporters of the council must surely realise that allowing a school to collapse in the space of a few years, while simultaneously allowing tens of thousands of pounds to be thrown away, and imposing swingeing cuts to basic services for families with disabled children, requires more than just a timid acknowledgement. It is time for Helen Whiter to declare a credible resolve to do better, to put right that which can be put right, and say in a way that cannot be misunderstood the word "sorry".

BILL O'CONNOR, Chamberlain Way, St Neots

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