We think that even after ten years there is a real problem in getting education and social work policy to match up.
For example, Further Education colleges keep detailed records on the nature of disabilities of students with up to 9 named categories of disabilities indicating the type of support needed from Dyslexia to wheelchair users. But no specific information is kept on people with learning disabilities and they are counted within a number of different disability categories. While colleges can provide special lifeskills courses for people with learning disabilities they don’t actually have accurate records of the number of people with learning disabilities registered at each college.
As a result we are not suggesting that colleges are unaware of the needs of people with learning disabilities but that their systems push them in different directions. Over the last couple of years a small change in the funding mechanism in colleges has seen the number of opportunities for people with learning disabilities fall dramatically. This change simply in additional to the extra funding for those with additional support needs added further enhancements for those from area of social deprivation and those who were able to achieve better qualification. Applied through the course design and student selection processes, these changes meant that fewer opportunities were available and of those that were people with learning disabilities were less likely to qualify.
This was not discrimination or designed, but simply the unintended consequences of attempts to address other social problems.
In order to address this and other similar problems then we need to have more of a controlling hand at the centre of Scottish policy to resolve and manage such issues.
• Over the last ten years there has been a growing awareness of both learning disability and autism within schools and a number of children with a learning disability have continued at mainstream school particularly primaries but also increasingly all the way through.
We think this is important for all children with learning disabilities who gain much from being around children without disabilities. But we do know that many families have great concern about bullying and isolation that children with learning disabilities can face especially in the later school years.
• Bullying is a blight on everyone and people with learning disabilities are particularly susceptible to it. In adult life, many people with learning disabilities take avoiding action, placing themselves out of harm’s way. In a school or college setting this is much harder.
We think that this needs to be tackled seriously. Our schools and colleges should be fit for everyone.
There are also a number of other things that can be done.
• Better training for teachers, lecturers and other teaching staff in mainstream settings which covers learning disabilities, autism and other particular issues.
• Adequate resourcing for classroom assistants
• More flexible arrangements for those labelled as having behaviour that challenges in mainstream settings and an understanding that such behaviour is primarily a method of communication that needs to be understood and acted upon.

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