Hyper? It depends on who you ask

30th May 2003 at 01:00
TWO analyses - one in Fife and a significant study south of the border - reveal that parents and teachers disagree about which pupils in a class are hyperactive. There is often no overlap.

As ministers on Wednesday published plans for legislation to update 20-year-old practice on special educational needs, it is clear that parents and teachers are heading for further clashes over children with "additional support needs", the emerging term.

Local authorities have expressed concerns about the risks of replacing one bureaucratic, confrontational system with another based on mediation and appeals tribunals when parents and teachers disagree.

Meanwhile, a major investigation published yesterday (Thursday) by Audit Scotland and HM Inspectorate of Education effectively calls for reform of league tables of information which penalise schools with strong inclusion policies.

It is the first time there has been an official acknowledgement of long-standing concerns about the effects of raw exam data on school morale and intake.

As the inclusion agenda hots up, yawning differences between teachers and parents whose children have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are beginning to surface across Britain.

A conference last week run by Moray House School of Education heard of similar findings from opposite ends of the country. Bryan Kirkaldy, a senior education manager in Fife, said that one in 100 pupils in the authority were now diagnosed with the condition, which has grown rapidly over the past eight years. Four out of five are prescribed Ritalin.

"But very often these children were not the ones teachers considered the most active and most distractable. They were often the ones referred through the family GP route. There was not a big overlap," Mr Kirkaldy said.

Some pupils were placed on Ritalin without any school diagnosis of problems and many teachers considered they were not overactive or out of control.

A more in-depth study in three parts of England by Pam Maras of Greenwich University has found that around one in four parents classed their children as hyperactive. Of the same cohort of 2,000 8-13s, teachers also put the ratio at around one in four.

But they were mostly different children. Of 591 pupils identified by teachers, only 147 matched the parents' views.

The findings underline the likely battleground when parents begin to unscramble the replacement SEN system that will develop if, as expected, the Scottish Parliament passes the new legislation which builds on recent disability law.

Parents have already complained about the lack of consultation on what they see as a massive shift in education law which they believe will diminish the rights of children with SEN.

Peter Peacock, Education Minister, will have to convince a sceptical parents' lobby that a new system of additional support needs is an improvement on the controversial recording process.

Report, pages 4-5

Leader, page 22

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