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Listen to us, say disabled youngsters

PARENTS of disabled pupils have given Scottish schools a more positive testimonial than their counterparts in England and Wales, but this may be because they know less about their rights.

A new study, by a team of researchers at Birmingham Uni-versity, also found that disabled youngsters have clear views on their future, which should be taken into greater consideration.

My School, My Family, My Life: Telling it like it is in Scotland was funded by the Disability Rights Commission, with the aim of examining the realities of life for disabled pupils. The research was prompted by the changes introduced by the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, which replaced records of needs with co-ordinated support plans and the concept of special educational needs with additional support needs.

Parental satisfaction with schools was found to be generally good in Scotland. Fewer parents in Scotland, than in England and Wales, had sought changes to improve education for their children, indicating satisfaction.

However, linked with low awareness of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), the researchers felt that could be because parents did not know about the reforms.

Teachers did not emerge unscathed, as 31 per cent of parents suggested any difficulties were with attitudes and understanding and a lack of support in the school. Some said teachers simply did not understand certain conditions, such as autism.

Another key finding was that the views of young people should be taken more seriously.

The report said: "We have been repeatedly impressed by the knowledge shown by the children and young people. They have increased our commitment to taking their views seriously."

At the launch of the report in Edinburgh last week by the Disability Rights Commission, Kathleen Marshall, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People, said creating educational opportunities for disabled youngsters was not about being "nice". It was their right.

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