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Government ‘failed to consider equality in school building cuts’

Inclusive education campaigners have welcomed a court’s ruling that the government failed to take account of the impact on disabled pupils and other minority groups when it scrapped a string of school building projects.

Education secretary Michael Gove has been told he did not consult widely enough over his plans to scrap the projects, and failed to pay enough attention to equalities issues in reaching his decision.

It is the second time in a month that a judge has told a public body to rethink plans to reduce spending because of a failure to carry out a proper assessment of how the cuts would affect disabled people and other minority groups.

It follows a court ruling on the decision by London Councils to slash spending on a London-wide grants programme.

Simone Aspis, policy and campaigns coordinator for the Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), said Gove’s decision had meant there was no opportunity “for spanking new buildings that are accessible to disabled learners”.

She said ALLFIE hoped the ruling would provide an opportunity for local disabled people’s organisations and family groups promoting inclusive education to “lobby hard” with both their local authorities and the secretary of state to allow the projects to go ahead.

Aspis said the court’s ruling was another boost to the fight against spending cuts and showed that “you cannot just go ahead with policies without doing a proper equality impact assessment on what the implications will mean for disabled people”.

Although the judge, Mr Justice Holman, did not order Gove to reinstate funding for any of the projects, he did tell him to reconsider his decisions.

But the judge said that the final decision on the projects rested with Gove, and that he “may save all, some, a few, or none” of them, while “no one should gain false hope from this decision”.

The judicial review was brought by Luton, Waltham Forest, Nottingham, Newham, Kent and Sandwell councils, following Gove’s decision in July 2010 to cancel projects under Labour’s Building Schools for the Future scheme in their areas.

The aim of the scheme, introduced in 2004, was to rebuild or refurbish every secondary school in England over the following 15 to 20 years.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are delighted that the judge did not call into question the decision to end the wasteful and bureaucratic Building Schools for the Future programme.” 

News provided by John Pring at