Scots council takes action on problem primary pupils

Fife is to step up its support for problem pupils in primary schools, but a former education chairman has warned that all departments must co-operate if the move is to be successful.

Alex McKay, the council's head of education, says the aim is to educate children with behavioural problems alongside their peers for as long as possible, and to help primaries become more "resourceful" in coping with such pupils.

He was told, however, by Joan Robertson, headteacher of Pitcorthy primary in Dunfermline and a teachers' representative on the education committee, that "resourceful schools have to be resourced".

Mrs Robertson none the less welcomed the proposals as an attempt to provide pupils with greater equality of treatment.

The committee, meeting in Glenrothes last week, heard from Tom Dair, education chairman on the former regional council, that any improvement "requires a corporate commitment across different disciplines". Mr Dair said a previous attempt to help problem pupils foundered partly because of the refusal of the social work department to provide full family information, on the grounds that such details were confidential.

"The result was that decisions were being taken by psychologists on the basis of what was happening in the narrow confines of the classroom without the wider background being known," Mr Dair commented. It was not until pupils came to the attention of the reporter to the children's panel that the full story often emerged.

Fife currently operates behaviour support centres in six primaries. But Mr McKay said in his report that help "is not consistent across Fife and there is not a shared understanding of the range of difficulties children experience or the resources which can be applied".

The proposals involve more clear-cut support for pupils in their own school. Access to intensive programmes in specialist centres would be granted only where resources are not available and where the child would benefit from "temporary out-placement".

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