Katie Price to found free school for special needs children

The former glamour model will work with other local parents to open a school for the visually impaired.

News about Katie Price tends to focus on her latest love interest, autobiography, or reality TV show. Yet the glamour model turned businesswoman’s latest venture is somewhat different: she is founding a free school to provide for children like her son Harvey, who has special educational needs.

Harvey, 10, has autism, Prader-Willi syndrome (a genetic disorder that causes easy weight gain) and septo-optic dysplasia, which means he has visual impairments.

Price told the Guardian:

Not in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to be starting a school. But we're planning to open in September 2013, on a site in Sevenoaks in Kent. It's going to be called the Visually Impaired Special Needs academy – it will have places for at least 20 children initially, but we hope to go up to 90 in time. And once we've got it off the ground, we hope to open more schools just like it: because we haven't got enough special needs schools in Britain, and we have to get them so that children like Harvey have the best chance in life.

The decision was prompted by the closure of the school Harvey currently attends, Dorton House in Sevenoaks, which is run by the Royal London Society for Blind People.

Price is working with her mother, Amy Price, and a group of five or six other parents affected by the school closure. They should hear this month whether their bid will be approved.

Until now, she has been quiet about her involvement for fear it would jeopardise the bid, but now plans to use her celebrity status to help raise funds and awareness. In a development that is perhaps unsurprising given that Price spends much of her life in front of a camera, I've been told that the founding of the school will feature in her reality show.

Katie Price, launching her magazine "Katie". September 2011. Photograph: Getty Images

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.