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Award-winning head voices her fears for school-leavers

A special school headteacher hopes her victory at the "Oscars for teachers" will reverse the worsening employment and education prospects that her pupils encounter in the wider world.

Lorraine Stobie (pictured) of Southcraig School in Ayr, who won the Ted Wragg Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Pearson Teaching Awards last weekend, told TESS about her concerns for school leavers.

"I would hope that people who are reading this will maybe be more welcoming to our children, and see them for what they are able to do in the workplace, not what they can't," she said.

Mrs Stobie, whose school has about 80 pupils aged 2-19 with complex additional needs, said the situation was "a lot worse" than in the past, with further education colleges cutting places and employers more reluctant to recruit during tough economic times.

She also believes that local authorities "could do an awful lot more" to help these young people.

Mrs Stobie acknowledged that it was expensive and difficult to provide such opportunities. But she fears that many young people, far from being given the chance to build on skills gained at school, are in fact regressing when they leave.

The post-school hurdles were not purely logistical, she said; work still needed to be done to change attitudes toward people with complex additional needs.

Mrs Stobie, 56, who earlier this year won the equivalent prize at the Scottish Teaching Awards, has been credited by Margo Williamson, South Ayrshire's head of curriculum and service improvement, with having "dragged special education out of the cupboard".

The award judges noted that she had "helped revolutionise attitudes and the way such children and young people are treated, rejecting previously held views that they could not be educated"; her impact had been "immense locally, nationally and internationally".

Staff say she "stays ahead of the game", constantly researching new equipment and methods; one parent, a doctor, said her knowledge was better than that of medical specialists.

The Teaching Awards programme will be broadcast on BBC2 at 5.25pm this Sunday.

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk.

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