Editor's comment

Neil Munro

If there is one area of schooling where education authorities struggle to get things right, it is in additional support - whether providing English classes for incoming families or in improving education for pupils with learning difficulties . Our extensive coverage this week of the major independent study commissioned - bravely - by North Ayrshire Council is an indication that, even in an authority which goes the extra mile, parents still have their work cut out to ensure their children's needs are recognised, never mind met.

As with much research, timing is all: the council has pointed out that some of the most negative comments from parents to the researchers pre- dated the Additional Support for Learning Act and North Ayrshire's response to it. Nevertheless, this is a complex and resource-intensive area, growing in significance, where most schools will continue to play catch-up. Parents and their children have more detailed knowledge - the 16 different categories of special needs they cited to the researchers are just one indication of the range of provision demanded of schools.

North Ayrshire, however, must be doing something right for parents, since it has never been embroiled in tribunal disputes. But this may not last. Adam Ingram, the Children's Minister, announced this week that parents would be allowed to make a placing request for children with special needs to attend a school in another local authority. What's more, it would be incumbent on the "host" authority to provide mediation and dispute resolution in unresolved cases. And parents will also be given additional rights to apply to a tribunal.

While welcome action is taken on placing requests to end the discrimination against children requiring additional support, cross- boundary floodgates could be thrown open. East Renfrewshire must be bracing itself.

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Neil Munro

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