Pupils with learning disabilities in Scottish schools feel “bullied, isolated and excluded” according to a report by charity ENABLE Scotland. In a survey of young people with a learning disability in Scottish schools 60 per cent said they felt lonely at school while 67 per cent said they had been bullied. Sixteen years after initial moves to educate those with learning disabilities in mainstream schools the number of additional support for learning teachers in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level since 2007. In the ENABLE survey 98 per cent of teachers said initial teacher training does not prepare them for teaching young people who have additional support for learning needs.
Jan Savage, ENABLE Scotland's executive director of campaigns and external affairs, called on the government to look at recommendations from the charity, including recognition in school inspections of those missing out on education and a commission on learning assistants. “The presumption to mainstream policy was designed to deliver inclusion - it hasn't,” she said. “It has resulted in more children being educated in the same classroom, which is an important first step. But 16 years on, we can also now see that it has taken specialist expertise out of the Scottish education system, and left young people who have learning disabilities side lined.”
The report was raised in the Scottish Parliament by Green MSP Ross Greer.
“Given the links between the attainment gap and the prevalence of additional support needs, will the Government use the Parliament’s powers to bring forward a budget that allows local government to reverse the recent cutting of hundreds of additional support needs teachers and support staff?” he asked.
Education Secretary John Swinney said: “The points that Enable Scotland has raised are important for the inclusion of every young person in our education system and ensuring that they achieve fulfilment. I have made it clear to Parliament before that the Government has set the centrality of the agenda of getting it right for every child, which has to mean every single child—we have to meet their needs.”
Children & Young People’s Commissioner, Tam Baillie said: “In Scotland we have progressive legislation, but it has not always been fully implemented for a number of reasons, including a lack of resources. Inadequate education provision not only affects learning but, as this report shows, it has a negative impact on children and young people’s mental health. We have international obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide an education which is directed to 'the development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to the fullest'.”