As parents of children with additional needs, we place a lot of trust in professionals and the education system to deliver the best possible provision for our children. However, our individual experiences of inclusion within the mainstream setting suggest this does not always happen.
Having attended the recent "Bigger Picture" event in Edinburgh, it was encouraging to hear that mandatory training for additional needs teaching is to be implemented across Scotland. This addresses a major concern for us.
At present, teachers and members of support staff in schools are not sufficiently trained to support our children effectively. This positive step forward demonstrates the commitment to inclusion within the mainstream and to our children's education. However, it must also be recognised that inclusion is not always appropriate for children with additional needs.
In order for these children to reach their full potential, appropriate time, as well as support and training for teachers and support staff, must be implemented across all provisions and at all levels, whether in mainstream, supported units or specialised provisions.
Although mandatory training will undoubtedly assist in addressing academic issues, greater consideration and commitment has to be given to the socialisation of our children, particularly within a mainstream setting.
Staffing levels in playgrounds are not of an acceptable level to encourage social play and communication skills between children and their peers. Little or no life skills are being taught, unless a child with additional needs is being educated in specialised provision. Our children need to achieve comparative levels of independence with their peers if they are to succeed and progress in life outside education.
Many of us have benefited from early years intervention and its positive impacts on our children, their peers, educators and families. If the Government is committed to a successful inclusion policy, the above issues must be addressed.
Midlothian Parent Carers Support Group, (for parents and carers of children with additional needs).