If I'd ever had any doubts about inclusive education, then David was the lad who dispelled them. I'd been an IT teacher for about eight years and was working in a large comprehensive in Edinburgh. David was the first student to come to the school with any sort of disability. He had been blind since birth, but his mother was determined he should be in mainstream schooling. She was amazing, very determined. She knew what was best for him.
It's just as well. David had been at a special school in Edinburgh, and the report that accompanied him to my school said his disability was so severe he wouldn't reach even Standard grade. But they'd totally misunderstood him. It was obvious that he was a bright kid. Very articulate. Teachers often make jokes in class that are a bit over the heads of some students, but David always understood and he'd be sitting there with a wry smile on his lips. He also integrated quickly and within two weeks was getting round the school as easily as any sighted student.
The real challenge of inclusion wasn't getting David to integrate or making sure he coped with the work; it was ensuring teachers could cope with the demands of having a disabled student in their classes. Edinburgh local authority did well in preparing us. Before David arrived, it held meetings with staff. There were some worries and concerns, but the authority did a lot to alleviate these. We were even given help on how to structure lessons.
But it did mean some changes to the way we taught, especially for me. There was no more doing lesson plans the night before, because you had to make sure any notes were available in Braille. And you had to be constantly aware that visual props were no use in his classes.
If his mother hadn't been so determined to get him out of the special school and into mainstream, who knows what would have happened to him. As it was, David didn't just get up to Standard grade in computing, he also did Higher where he got an A. He went on to study science at university.
Inclusion isn't easy, but David convinced me it is crucial.
Derek Curran has taught for 23 years. He recently moved to Stornoway in the Western isles to take up his first headship at the Nicolson Institute. He was talking to Su Clark