Children with special needs being unfairly excluded from school

Information showing how many young people have been excluded from school in Scotland were published earlier this year. For children with special needs it paints a worrying picture.

The new law on Additional Support for Learning was meant to improve things. Instead it hardly seems to make a difference. Nearly a quarter of young people excluded from school had special needs while they form a tiny part of the school population.

Schools can act too fast. We have known children who have been excluded permanently for breaking a single window. This helps to break patterns of education and social skill development.

But perhaps worse are the hidden exclusion, when parents wanting to register are told that there are better schools for their children elsewhere. Children never given a chance to grow and develop with others as part of our society.

If the vision of children with special needs attending their local mainstream schools is to become a reality there needs to be

  • A better understanding of special needs and in particular autism
  • Training for all school staff on autism (and more than a single hour!)
  • more intermediate resources to support children and young people in transition
  • quick and effective additional support in times of crisis.

There is lots of good work going on in school and many voluntary organisations are able to offer innovative support structures to support schools and pupils. But unfortunately in far too many cases, it is exclude first for relatively minor events.

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ACTION ON HARASSMENT

The Scottish Parliament is to consider new laws on hate crimes against gay or disabled people in Scotland. The Green MSP Patrick Harvie announced his new bill at the start of October. It has now passed scrutiny by the Equal Opportunities Commission and has enough support to go on to the next stage in the Parliament.

The bill is about the sentencing of existing criminal offences. It does not introduce any new criminal offences. The bill deals with criminal offences where the offender is motivated by malice and ill-will against the victim, because of the victim’s

  • actual or presumed disability

  • actual or presumed sexual orientation

  • actual or presumed transgender identity

  • because of the victim’s association with disabled or lesbian, gay, bisexual or
    If passed it will require that where an existing offence such as assault has been made worse because of prejudice about disability or sexual orientation then this should be taken into account by the judge when sentencing.

Harassment is sometimes called the “silent nightmare”. It often starts with very small incidents and gradually builds up as the bully gains more confidence. While bullying behaviour can happen in front of others, often they choose to ignore it or not treat it seriously.
Those suffering from the harassment feel on their own and surrounded by silence. Harassment thrives on secrecy and fear and remains very under reported.

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