COUNCILLORS have endorsed the principle of a review of special schools in North Yorkshire but have called for safeguards.

The county council is responding to recommendations from Ofsted, following its inspection of the local education authority in 2004, by proposing the closure of two special schools and the merging of others in a £47m shake-up designed to be phased in over 12 to 15 years.

The reorganisation is part of a long-term plan to place more children with special needs in mainstream schools, supported by specialist staff with better training.

It would involve mergers of the Dales School at Morton-on-Swale, near Northallerton, and Mowbray School, at Bedale, Woodlands and Springhead Schools, both in Scarborough, Forest School in Knaresborough, and Springwater School, in Harrogate.

A three-hour meeting of the young people scrutiny committee at county hall has supported the principle of the review, but is making recommendations to the executive, which meets tomorrow.

The committee is seeking assurances about the ongoing costs of the review, that pupil referral units will deliver effective provision and that the education authority will confirm its commitment to work with the heads of special and mainstream schools on implementation of the changes.

It has also called for a further report next month on arrangements for monitoring such issues as an anti-bullying strategy. Final review recommendations will go to the full council on December 20.