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Councils move on integration

South Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire have decided to bring special needs pupils closer to their mainstream counterparts despite fears that this could affect the standing of secondary schools in exam tables.

The most ambitious move is in South Ayrshire where a "centre for support for learning" will be established at Mainholm Academy in Ayr. The centre will accommodate about 40 secondary pupils with moderate learning difficulties who currently attend Rosebank special school in Ayr and a post-16 unit at Ayr Academy.

Rosebank, Craigpark and South Park schools in Ayr will operate a shared campus for primary children and older pupils with more complex learning problems.

Alastair Noble, South Ayrshire's head of quality and service development, said there would be "no headlong rush" towards integration and levels of participation in mainstream classes would depend on the needs of each pupil. A small number of secondary pupils at Rosebank may have to remain if parents feel they are unable to cope with the move.

Dr Noble said parents, school boards and staff supported the proposals, which the council hopes to introduce next session at an estimated cost of Pounds 150,000. He assured councillors that the "public perception" of Mainholm Academy would be monitored. Consultation had revealed concern that the new centre could adversely affect the school's showing in league tables.

East Renfrewshire is to open two units for children with moderate learning difficulties at St John's primary and St Luke's High in Barrhead, the first such provision in the council's area. The decisions will save Pounds 357, 000 on inter-authority payments when the units become operational in August 1997.

East Dunbartonshire decided last week to establish two units for 24 pupils with language disorders. The council hopes to save Pounds 252,000 on charges for pupils who have to attend schools elsewhere.

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