Care inspections 'a potential recipe for disaster'

THE education service in Scotland could be harmed unless there is a major rethink of the role of the Care Commission, an early years seminar heard recently.

Norma Watson, head of Kirkhill nursery in West Lothian and vice-convener of the education committee of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said the inspection function of the commission was "a potential recipe for disaster".

"Already in nursery classes and nursery schools we have HMI inspections and local authority inspections, and now this. We are going to have inspections, inspections - and where is the joined-up thinking when the lead minister is the Health Minister and not the Minister for Education?"

She welcomed the commitment of the Scottish Executive to the "positive and flexible contribution" that qualified teachers can make in the pre-school setting but warned that flexibility must not result in tokenism. "It sounds good on the face of it but we must be careful that flexibility does not lead to dilution and the removal of the nursery teacher. If it resulted in someone being parachuted (into a school) for a day or half-day, their contribution would not be complete and it would only be a token gesture."

At another of the seminars held as part of The TES Scotland-sponsored Early Years and Primary Teaching Exhibition in Glasgow, teachers were warned against a dogmatic approach to social inclusion and urged to be aware of the limitations involved.

Tommy Mackay, a consultant psychologist, said that dogma can vary from saying that such children should all be in special schools to believing that there should be mainstreaming at all costs.

"We need as much social inclusion as we can, and that will bring about a lot of chaos and disruption, but at the same time there are limits to that and we must realise that for practical reasons we have got to make other arrangements, some of which will involve segregated provision which at the present time a number most certainly need."

Teachers should not feel guilty if they encounter difficulties. "Some children can be included quite easily while, with others, teachers will feel that they are not meeting their needs at all. But the reality is that no one has their needs met fully - there are always limitations and people should do their best within the circumstances they face."

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