Being charitable to national centres and special schools

2nd March 2001 at 00:00
The cowardly diatribe of your anonymous principal teacher of learning support (TESS, February 23) against my support for national funding of national centres for special educational needs not only misrepresents my position but betrays a wilful ideological prejudice that I believe to be the antithesis of an objective and professional teacher.

While dissenting from those paragraphs that dealt with special schools, I did sign up to all of the rest of the Scottish Parliament education committee's report, including the strengthening of the presumption of mainstreaming, which suggests that rather than "bleating on behalf of special schools" I am content that they be made to justify their special status that comes from national funding.

A presumption does, however, suggest an alternative and it is my contention that for choice to be adequate some pupils will require the use of specialist help or facilities at national centres. My amendment, which was not debated at the committee, simply asked that a system be found to define what a national centre was and therefore establish which schools would qualify, and that some proportion of their funding come from the Scottish Executive in recognition of their national role.

This would mean that national centres, special schools, or whatever you wish to call them could be charitable, such as those run by Capability, independent such as Donaldson's College, or local authority schools. No existing grant-aided special school would be guaranteed inclusion in this group. Hardly then a policy designed to ensure the preservation of grant-aid or private schools for the sake of it.

When I visited Craighalbert at Cumbernauld I saw the partnership between parents and staff using conductive education so that pupils could reach a point where mainstreaming was a possibility. When I visited Donaldson's I learnt how having a community of deaf pupils could provide a more inclusive environment for a deaf child than being isolated in a hearing class. From such experiences, the written and the oral evidence I was convinced about the need for diversity in approach.

For your correspondent to spend the majority of the letter questioning my motives, my sincerity and my objectivity not only demeans and undermines his or her own and visibly thin arguments but shows such an illiberal approach as to be highly distressing.

Brian Monteith, MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, Scotland Plus 2-3


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