ENQUIRE, the national special educational needs helpline, was launched this week at Donaldson's College for the deaf by Sam Galbraith, Children and Education Minister. Aimed at providing information and advice for parents and young people, it is run by Children in Scotland and funded by the Scottish Executive at a cost of pound;621,000 for three years.
Mr Galbraith said parents often needed particular information to allow them to take decisions, and they would value the help of independent, non-statutory organisations. Children, too, should have access to information and advice at different stages of their life and in different formats.
He said: "Enquire will liaise closely with all other sources of specialist advice in the SEN area and will promote a collaborative approach."
The intention to establish a national helpline was announced a year ago by Helen Liddell, the then education minister. Carole Moore, who heads the team of four running the service, emphasised its roles in training within local authorities and in mediation of disputes.
There will be four pilot projects in mediation, which Ms Moore said would help parents and professionals alike. When disputes became litigious, she said, "it is often the child who loses out regardless of the outcome".
Sylvia Paton, mother of an 11-year-old visually impaired boy, said that a record of needs was being prepared for him. But until he was nine she had never heard of special needs recording.
The Enquire helpline is on 0131 222 2400, e-mail: Enquire.SENinfo@childreninscotland.org.uk
During his visit to Donaldson's College Mr Galbraith praised the new principal, Janet Allan, and her staff for the progress made since the critical Inspectorate report last year.
A pound;7 million development plan aims to market Donaldson's as an international centre for deaf studies and communication disorders, to promote distance learning and to offer second-chance education to deaf adults.
A follow-up report published this week says that child protection measures had been instituted, following abuse claims by pupils. The school, helped by officials of Edinburgh council, had also improved its residential care.