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Class act 4: special needs

The grounds of Kingsinch, a special school in Edinburgh for 100 5 to 17-year- olds with moderate to severe learning difficulties, boasts an unusual feature: two flagpoles. One constantly flies the Scottish flag, the other flies the flag of the country of any visitor as a welcoming courtesy.

It is an idea the school picked up from the regular exchange visits it has enjoyed during the past eight years with Tolne, a residential school in North Jutland, Denmark which helps teenagers with behavioral problems and learning difficulties.

The visits have had a profound influence of Kingsinch, Maureen Price, the headteacher, says.

"The Danish school used a life-skills programme based on agriculture, horticulture and cooking through which they teach the three Rs. We found their methods so successful and our young people appreciated them so much we have tried a similar system here.

"In special education we tend to be very protective of the youngsters. But the Danish exchange visits have made us look at our practice and have moved us more quickly than we mightotherwise have done in the direction of giving them more independence. We now find that our youngsters take more responsible decisions forthemselves."

As well as the two-week groupvisits, two Kingsinch students go to Tolne for three-months. They make their own air travel arrangements and are responsible for taking an adult with them on the outward journey, but return unaccompanied.

"Everyone that has done this has become very self reliant and has gone on to a full time job,'' Ms Price says.

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