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Lord Adonis's appearance

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Eddie Mair | 06:59 UK time, Thursday, 10 May 2007

on the programme last night caused quite a stir (see "Children with special needs" below).

We will think this morning about what to do next. We may invite him to read and respond to what people have written...and we'll certainly consider doing something "bigger" since as several people remarked there was enough material for a special of some kind. We'll ponder...and in the meantime if you have a thought on what we could do, post it on the comment on this thread. If you'd like to read what people have written, or carry on debating the substance of SEN, then the Children with Special Needs thread is the best place.


  1. At 08:04 AM on 10 May 2007, pete kettle wrote:

    I'm a bit dismayed to hear of the accusations of intolerance aimed at Richard Dawkins. Religious fundamentalism is the most intolerant, and most dangerously unreasonable, evil we face today. It has a very long historical grip on human society. It is hard to see anything positive in a system that relies on indoctrination and the fostering of hatred and intolerance. It induces guilt, which engenders submission and cowed compliance.
    To attack the reasoned arguments of scientific rationalism is ludicrous and disingenuous. We should remember Galileo, and the brave noble line of independent thinkers that have followed him. Richard Dawkins is in that line. The ghastly horde of popes and inquisitors have fought long and hard to prop up their fairy tales, and have campaigned against women, homosexuals, medicine and science right up to the present day. Still, the faith nuts do have Bush on their side.

  2. At 08:09 AM on 10 May 2007, Jade Bolton-Power wrote:

    I am the founder of a campaign of parents that are not happy with the education their special needs children have received.

    As a mother of an 8 year old son with Autism, we spent alost 3 years fighting for our son to get the education that is the right of every child. In that time my son ran in front of a car to kill himself, he ran out of the school's unlocked gates over 40 times and unto the main road. Our lives stopped during that time.

    I have the strength, deterination and a vaste amount of stubbourness to start this campaign to try and change things for our children. Most parents dont know where to start, who to ask for help.

    I wrote to Lord Adonis regarding the website and his reply was, 'The response to your campaign shows that too many parents of children with special educational needs in general and those with ASD's in particular still feel that the right support is readily available' WRONG. If Lord Adonis or his assistant had even bothered to read the website, they would read stories of parents saying that there is no support, parents desperate for help, children suffering, teachers and teaching assistants with no training in special needs.

    This Government once said, 'every child matters', well clearly if your child has special needs, then they clearlydont matter.

    I would like to invite Lord Adonis to come to my home and to sit and listen to what it is really like, I would suggest that he actually reads the website, www.helpushelpthem.org.uk and feels ashamed of what is happening to our special needs children and does something about it.

    The system is wrong in so many ways and it needs changing. Start listening to the parents and listen to a 6 year old child who says that 'if I am dead I wont have to go to school'.

    I hope that Lord Adonis sleeps easily at night, because I havent sleep properly since I had to start fighting for my son to have a life that he deserves.

  3. At 08:33 AM on 10 May 2007, Fifi wrote:

    " as several people remarked there was enough material for a special of some kind "

    ...And our commissioning editor was Fifi (et al)!

    Fifi ;o)

  4. At 09:28 AM on 10 May 2007, Gillian wrote:

    Please, at the very least, urge Lord Adonis to read and respond. He has a duty to make himself aware of the real, desperate situation in which too many parents obviously find themselves.

  5. At 10:27 AM on 10 May 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    To be honest, I'm not sure that PM is the right programme to "do a special". I would think that the best thing would be to have Lord Adonis in a studio with a number of the people who have responded on the other thread, and allow a debate to take place for a significant period of time (20 mins would be a minimum, I would suggest). It would also help to have representatives from a number of LEAs and other involved parties (such as solicitors/barristers who have been involved in such situations). This would allow for the topic to be discussed from all angles. Unfortunately, I think this would prove too much of a disruption to a standard PM programme, and may push other news stories out. Maybe it should be a more File on Four time programme....

  6. At 10:35 AM on 10 May 2007, Fiona wrote:

    Yes please, do get Lord Adonis on again - and I agree with Fifi's suggestion that it warrants a special of its own. It is such an important and emotive topic. I found myself shouting at the radio, as I think many others did. I could not believe what I was hearing from this man. I have no direct personal experience to share but I know enough to know that he was just plain wrong. And I do have a son with behavioural issues which are causing some concern (I am starting to think along the ADHD route), so I can imagine the pain and suffering these poor families have to go through to get what is a basic human right, a good education.

  7. At 11:13 AM on 10 May 2007, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    Count this as another vote for Lord Adonis to either come back onto PM or be grilled in a Special.

    I'm currently sitting with my laptop invigilating a group of third year University special needs students doing an exam. Most universities these days go out of their way to help those with SEN and in the last week or so I've watched over young people with a wide variety of problems as they manage to get through pretty tough exams.

    However, if the support isn't there at the school level, these very smart youngsters here will be some of the very few who fulfil their potential. The government can't be allowed to fail children in this situation and prevent them from getting the education they deserve.

    I was very lucky in that my own Asperger's was mild enough at school that the teachers (very kindly) put up with my pedanticism, endless questions, virtually intelligible writing, and the other pupils put up with my appalling lack of social awareness and preference to just stand around in the playground in a world of my own rather than play.

    I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I had been just slightly further along the autistic spectrum, given that this was the 1970's and I doubt there was much (if any) special needs help around then.

  8. At 11:16 AM on 10 May 2007, Belinda wrote:

    Would there be scope in the Radio 4 schedule for an expanded 'PM: Extra' type of programme in the evening/weekend every so often, rather like the 'Any Questions' format but instead of AQ there are just Some Specific Questions About A Particular Topic?

    Radio 4 will like it as it will be using the same host and production team, your audience will like it as it will be more a more indepth analysis of something you bring up on the original PM show, and Edwina will be happy as it means more money, and more chance to interview the right people about these kind of issues.

    I agree that using the current PM programme and slot isn't quite right for this kind of thing as you will lose the end-of-work informative magazine format which is so successful.

  9. At 11:27 AM on 10 May 2007, Simon Worrall wrote:

    Adonis is a classic Tony Crony (as is Falconer, who was referenced by someone on the SEN thread). Unelected, unqualified (for their particular jobs), unaccountable, unknown placemen who are given a peerage so that they can be hoisted into crucial jobs within departments of state.

    His background is; childrens home, an LEA grant to private school, Keble and Christ Church, Oxford with a first in history, Doctorate awarded for a study of the aristocracy, Nuffield Fellowship, FT journalist in the fields of public policy and industry, Observer as a political correspondent, Downing St. policy unit 1998, heading it from 2001, raised to the peerage 2005 to enable his taking post as a govt. minister.

    He has only taught for a brief period, then spent a period as a hack. Then got into theoretical political policy at No. 10. What makes this man fit to be considered as a leading expert on the provision of education?

    Under this govt and partly due to his influence. the assisted places scheme which helped kids from underprivileged backgrounds like himself into private education has been scrapped. LEA's have been burdened with costly and unnecessary PFI schools to satisfy GB's desire to go down in history for his prudence (ponder the link between those imposed costs and the lack of money for SEN education!). The reconstruction of the nations schools, promised by the chancellor, is woefully behind schedule and over budget. Kids are still in big classes. GCSE results, if one includes maths and English Language in the '5 at grade C or above', have actually regressed, not improved. The perpetual debate over dumbing down has forced a reformation of 'A' levels and the introduction of the International Baccalaureate. Kids with SEN have been kicked into the mainstream, where facilities do not exist for them and where they disrupt the education of other children.

    The system patently stinks even more than the Glass Box. It demands a special report of some kind. RE: FFred and 'File on Four', sorry Fred but I disagree. That would be essentially burying the problem on Radio 4. PM has one of the highest listening figures on radio. File on Four doesn't even come close. It has to be Today or PM to reach the widest audience at peak time. If they can devote three-quarters of a programme to the election results they could certainly do the same for this, whose impact touches the lives of so many parents and children.

    The purpose of the LEA should be solely to commission and provide the education required. By assessing the need for that education they hold the keys to their own doors, which they have promptly locked shut. They are both gamekeeper and poacher. This must cease. Assessments must be entirely independent of provision. Ten years after "Education, education, education" the govt. has failed in Blair's own top priority because it has wilfully disregarded the needs of those who needed the help most of all.

    I do wonder if Adonis has any future in Govt. Once GB takes over he may well be out on his ear. Given the strength of feeling displayed on this blog one can only hope that it doesn't take too long.


  10. At 11:46 AM on 10 May 2007, DI Wyman wrote:

    Si (9)….hear, hear….so eloquently put as usual.

  11. At 12:15 PM on 10 May 2007, Fifi wrote:

    Peter Webb - you're famous! In case you haven't seen the latest new thread from Eddie.....

    "Peter Webb. Can you help?

    Eddie Mair 10 May 07, 11:53 AM

    Yvonne who did our report last night on children with special educational needs would URGENTLY like to hear from Peter Webb, who posted this comment

    "No 34: At 06:21 PM on 09 May 2007,

    Peter Webb wrote: I worked for an LEA for five years, presenting cases on behalf of the LEA to the Tribunal. In my experience it is true that LEAs have conflicting and irreconcilable roles in being both assessors and funders for children with special needs, and in some instances providers too. The danger is not so much that just one public body is responsible (although organisational separation would be preferable) but the main problem lies with the LEA staff who have to operate the procedures leading to assessment, funding and provision. It is impossible for them to behave impartially and they will invariably pursue the cheaper option, which is not always the most appropriate educational solution. My manager had responsibilty both for financial management of special educatiional needs provision, and for the LEA's statutory duty regarding assessment, and she was incapable of taking decisions on the basis of the individual child's needs."

    As part of our follow up, could Mr Webb pleas email us: pm@bbc.co.uk. Thanks."

    Peter, I hope you're reading this and are able to respond!


  12. At 12:34 PM on 10 May 2007, DI Wyman wrote:

    Belinda (8), how about do away with AQ and Dimblebore completely and use the slot for PM Special also keep the AQ answers slot to use for PM Answers.....jsu an idea.

  13. At 01:12 PM on 10 May 2007, Deepthought (John W) wrote:

    Belinda (8) and DI Wyman (12),

    A well put point; PM itself isn't (and shouldn't be) of the format for what everyone wants here, as it is supposed to cover all the news. I take your point Simon (9) (as well as your anger).

    But AQ hosted by Eddie or the late NC can be very interesting programmes. AA is more debatable.

    Some of the 18:30 so-called comedy slots seem to be available at short notice for a PM special/Extra as an add-on to the day's PM?

    I have my own beef about education and standards, but not muddy the waters with a diversion onto that, this special needs matter is important.

  14. At 01:37 PM on 10 May 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Aye to Si, Aye to PM Special out of regular timeslot, preferably a prime time or potentially prime time slot. Saturday PM for 60 or 90 minutes?

    Adonis? "Beauty (?)" and ignorant arrogance combined. (imho) Let the clearing begin!

    P.S. A very respectable Tory MSP told me "Actually, the Conservatives and the SNP could form a majority, but I share your view that a minority Government is what is called for. Issue by issue decision making etc etc. I do not share your view that the SNP and Lib-Dems should coalesce - we've had enough of that. Let's try it differently for a while !!"....Interesting...Possibly on the same lines as the Greens - "confidence and supply"?

    We live in interesting times.


  15. At 02:08 PM on 10 May 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    It is better to deserve honors and not have them
    than to have them and not deserve them.

    -Mark Twain

  16. At 02:26 PM on 10 May 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Pete (1),
    "Religious fundamentalism is the most intolerant, and most dangerously unreasonable, evil we face today. It has a very long historical grip on human society. It is hard to see anything positive in a system that relies on indoctrination...."

    Scientific fundamentalism is at least as dangerous, intolerant, and dependent upon indoctrination. All fundamentalisms are dangerous.

    The most dangerous idea ever let loose lies at the core of modern Science: that the universe is comprehensible to the human brain. On examination, it's patently absurd, like a drop of water containing the cup, but absurdity hasn't ever stopped humans for long.

    Just consider the widespread but unrecognised assumption that the environment is just another part of The Economy. This leads to discussions as to whether we can really afford to save the world....(it might hurt The Economy, reduce GDP, increase unemployment, etc.)


  17. At 02:35 PM on 10 May 2007, Simon Worrall wrote:

    Fascinating isn't it? That a man who has held a Chair and taught at University, been so close to the seat of power and helped in a major way to formulate one of the Govt.'s flagship policies should be so utterly out of touch with the reality. Makes you wonder who the hell he was talking to when he was making up policy? Or maybe he was doing a John Birt and plucking his ideas out of 'Blue Sky'?

    There's nothing beautiful about the reaction to his pronouncements on the other thread. Savagery wouldn't be far from the truth. I suspect that the noble Lord, having descended from his ivory tower, will now retreat back to it's aloof fastness, never to engage with real people whose kids are suffering daily because of his sheer arrogance. I wouldn't expect anything else. Apart from anything else he might be worried about his own personal safety if he were confronted with the correspondents in question.

    I don't have a definite conception about how this ought to be done, save that it HAS to be in prime-time to get the audience exposure. And it needs Eddie to act as ringmaster. Quite simply he's the only one with the balanced but forensic interrogational skills required to conduct it properly. TV might be the proper forum, so that we can all see Adonis sweat under pressure....


  18. At 03:08 PM on 10 May 2007, DI Wyman wrote:

    Si....blimey, balanced but forensic interrogational skills...and I thought he was just a clever clogs.

    But would TV work?

    Surely the beauty of radio (from the interviewee point of view) is that you can't see them squirming and they are safe in that knowledge. To be seen as well as heard would have them running for the hills /ivory towers quicker than the whatsit up a drain pipe.

  19. At 03:17 PM on 10 May 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    I agree with all you say. How's that for a rarity? My "beauty' was a pitiful attempt at irony regarding his name - a perfect Dorian Grey, perhaps, but with ignorance, arrogance and dis-empathy as it's cardinals.

    TV may well be suitable, as in Paxman with al Poodle, etc.

  20. At 07:40 PM on 10 May 2007, Julie Maynard wrote:

    I am one of the parents featured on PM yesterday, regarding the appauling plight of parents of children with special educational needs, and the systemic failure of this Government to deal with the issue.

    90% of children according to the ONS excluded from primary school and 67% from secondary schools have special needs, why are they being excluded? Simple because their needs are not being met, but instead of looking to its policies the Government actively chooses to transfer responsibility on to all parents and would have as described as having poor parenting skills instead.

    Lord Adonis knows full well that the Tribunal may be free at point of access, but it is a lower court of law, which has a fact finding duty. Accordingly any parents lucky enough to have got that far in the first place wishing to challenge their LEA must have contradictory evidence to refute the local authority's position, which indeed costs money.

    Moreover, Lord Adonis has no idea which type of parent is accessing the Tribunal as no statistics are kept regarding parental resources or income.

    Lord Adonis failed to acknowledge since 1997 the number of appeals to Tribunal has risen by 55% under his Government.

    Moreover, I note he did not mention the fact that his ex boss Ms Kelly, whilst I applaud her decision to seek a special school for her child, in fact circumvented the system and instead placed her child in a fee paying school that does not accept LEA funded pupils with statements, whilst singing to us parents not in a financial position to do that, the virtues of special needs provision.

    His Higher Education Minister, Bill Rammell accepted when asked by the Education Select Committee that he did consider his own LEA to be at the extreme end of inclusion and in fact accepted he did indeed describe it as 'talibanesque' in response to my own son's questioning of him.

    And finally, why is it his Government has appointed seven SEN Government advisors who sole remit is to decrease the number of statements and increase inclusion. When parents have complained to him directly of this the response has been that this is his Government's policy.

    Lord Adonis need to face his critics and address issues with honesty and integrity, and stop repeating what his civil servants are telling him, who in turn are being advised by LEA officers.

  21. At 01:08 AM on 11 May 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


  22. At 09:54 AM on 11 May 2007, Les Coombs wrote:

    Lord Adonis' account of the system for children with special educational needs, was like listening to a fairy tale, based upon the fact he works amongst the ivory towers, rather than with real life.

    My step son is severely disabled and the the LEA's conduct towards him and his mother was a disgrace. She was bullied all the way, when she disagreed with her LEA and was forced to go to Tribunal. When the Tribunal erred in law she then had to pay for an appeal to the High Court.

    Children are no legally aided in SENDIST, which is a Court of law, instead parents have to fund it. The Tribunal makes a decision on the information and reports before it - if all the reports are from the LEA then the LEA win. Therefore parents have to get their own reports to counter the LEA's claim.

    And of course that is all dependent if you can even access the Tribunal in the first place because LEA refuse to assess children in line with Government's current policy to reduce statements and increase inclusion.

    David Cameron knows what parents are going through as he has gone through it himself with his own child - so I hope instead of seeing David Cameron as an opponent Lord Adonis listens to him as a parent.

  23. At 10:59 AM on 16 May 2007, Pat wrote:

    My impression was that Mr Adonis was totally out of touch / denying what actually goes on, for whatever agenda of his own or government, but the strange thing was, it was as if he was waiting for someone else to come up with ideas. Isn't that what HE is supposed to do? What does he actually do?

    Where does he get his information from? What research informs his approach? Who informs his approach / stance, or lack of?

    I don't think they actually know what to do. There is "face" and pride to take account of too. I think they are short on real knowledge of the situation and short on (inexpensive) solutions.

    However, it has been clear to me over the seemingly endless years, of fighting for my own child's education, seeing vulnerable, confused, fragile young personalities forced to be in the totally alien environment of mainstream school without support, that it didn't matter one tiny bit to the LEA or government how much even very young children suffered internally / mentally, even whether they lived or died, and the same attitude came through to me as well, as a parent. TOTAL INDIFFERENCE, even resentment.
    They just wanted us to go away, they just wanted not to have to spend anything.
    It is sobering and extremely distressing to know most thoroughly that you do not count for anything in this society, you are viewed as a nuisance, and I can see only too well how other people - maybe for different reasons - can become totally disaffected from society, totally cynical.

    I'm not religious, but this is supposed to be a christian country, and each soul is supposed to count. Ha ha ha. Ironic and empty laughter here.

    I often thought it would be less painful to take my daughter into a wood and shoot us both, but I am an ordinary Mum, and how could I ever do a terrible thing like that? Just wanted some peace and calm for both of us.

    I even fantasised sometimes about shop lifting and being sent to prison to get out of my seemingly endless stressful and distressing situation. If only Scotty could have beamed us up now and then.
    It is agony for parents coping with a child with behaviour problems in the home without advice or support. Then it is compounded when autism / their difficulties are denied, and you are blamed or receive continual refusals of support.
    The lack of support damaged my child, and damaged me psychologically too.
    In modern society when we have to fit into so many boxes /structures, follow so many rules, and our children just will not fit, however hard "they" try to make us push them.

    Thank goodness the school years are over, huge huge huge huge huge relief.

    (Our Aspie young people are still pressurised into having to take more exams than they can cope with at once. They are pushed to act "normal", to fit in, to be educated in an unsuitable way for them, all the way through. Am I to feel bad for not pushing her to do more than one A level at a time, because I don't want to see her distressed and panicky, and even worse just giving the whole thing up? I think the pressure on all youngsters in schools to achieve as many exams as possible is a terrible thing.)

    Parents do not want to have to fight LEAs, they do not want to have to go onto Carer's Allowance when the child cannot be in school etc. People judge you when you go on to benefits too, even though you have no choice, and have to watch your own life chances and future security (significantly reduced income in old age to look forward to) slip away.
    (Anyone on here ever tried to get a Carer's Assessment? I can hear hollow laughter from here.)

    The experience throws your priorities and values into sharp relief, and after a while you wonder why other people get worked up over such trivialities, and why the media are so obsessed with stars and their affairs, or with trashy inane TV programmes, when something real and terrible is happening around us every single day, under our very noses, in the education system across the land.

    It is most definitely not pudsey bear land out there.

  24. At 01:28 PM on 16 May 2007, Sue Gerrard wrote:

    Pat (23), I wholeheartedly agree with you. I think you've put your finger on the heart of the issue. What I've found really difficult to come to terms with over the last couple of years is not the fact that neither of my children (one 'G&T' and one SEN) enjoy school any more, nor even that they hate it (although that's been really hard - apparently they both have the wrong attitude), it's the fact that no one in the system is remotely bothered by this.

    It was interesting that Gordon Brown (talking about Maths in schools) spoke about what skills we need to produce a healthy economy (or words to that effect). In other words, the state of the economy comes first, and any children who are not showing the signs of being appropriate 'job fodder' to boost the economy (by finding maths difficult) are going to be dealt with by providing one-to-one learning. Presumably assisted by yet more unqualifed TA's. I think we're in for a rough ride over the next few years.

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