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SEN training inadequate, charity warns

Employers and PGDE courses fail to prepare teachers for pupils with learning difficulties, it says

Employers and PGDE courses fail to prepare teachers for pupils with learning difficulties, it says

Pupils with additional needs are being let down by an education system that fails to train staff properly, a leading charity has claimed.

Enable Scotland found that not one of Scotland's 32 local authorities provided mandatory training on learning disability and autism for teachers and support staff.

Instead, they run generalised training on additional support needs and equality, but this is mandatory in only five local authorities: East Ayrshire, East Lothian, Midlothian, Perth and Kinross and Scottish Borders.

Teacher education courses appear little better: research by the charity shows that specific modules on learning disability and autism are mandatory in three out of seven universities. In one case, this consisted of two lectures.

The charity's report, "Bridging the Training Gap", claims the situation may contribute to high exclusion rates among pupils with support needs; in 2009-10, pupils who had a disability were almost twice as likely to be excluded from school as those who did not.

Enable has launched a petition which calls for the new Scottish Parliament to ensure pupils with additional needs get the support they need in schools.

Chief executive Peter Scott said: "We want to see mandatory training not only in the general topics of additional support needs, inclusion and equalities, but also in the specific areas of behavioural management strategies, communication strategies and awareness of learning disabilities and autism."

Julia Main, whose sons Tommy, 9, and Jake, 5, have autism and other conditions, said: "Tommy was lucky in P1 that his teacher was experienced and trained in this field; however, subsequent teachers were not.

"I was told by one teacher he was not mixing with other children. He has autism and socialising can be difficult. Had sufficient training been given to the teacher, she would have not only recognised this but would have had strategies as to how to best work with Tommy to help him reach his potential."

Enable contacted all 32 local authorities. Each replied, although six responses were incomplete or inadequate and may not be an accurate reflection of what these authorities offer.

The report and petition can be found at www.enable. or by phoning 0141 226 4541 for a paper copy.

Scottish model inspires US

An Aberdeen University professor of education this week briefed the White House and members of both Houses of Congress on her pioneering research into the best ways of training new teachers to support children with learning difficulties.

The US Government is preparing to reauthorise its Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which considers how teachers should best be prepared to enter the profession.

Lani Florian spoke about the School of Education's Inclusive Practice Project, designed to ensure new teachers have a greater understanding of the educational and social problems that can affect children's learning and help them develop strategies to deal with such difficulties.

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