Kirk warns of lack of choice on special needs

12th May 2000 at 01:00
THE Church of Scotland is at odds with the Executive over where children with special needs should be educated. A report to the General Assembly, which opens on May 20, casts doubt on the speed with which pupils are being integrated into mainstream schools.

The education Bill makes the "presumption" that children should not attend a special school, (see page opposite) but the Kirk's education committee states that no type of learning environment should be excluded.

It adds: "An inclusive approach recognises diversity of needs. This means that any policy of integration into mainstream schooling should not automatically be adopted as this offers an approach which is too general to meet the interests and needs of the individual child."

A range of appropriate settings is demanded to give parents "a real choice". The Executive should set up a national special needs advisory forum representing all special needs interests to ensure consistency of support for pupils nd young people throughout Scotland and not dependent on their geographical location.

The Kirk delivers another rebuke to ministers over their handling of the Cubie committee's recommendations on student fees and support. The "political compromise which resulted in the severe weakening" of the report penalises students going south of the border and, by reducing the proposed benefits from pound;4,100 to pound;3,600, risks bringing students "below the poverty level".

Last year the Assembly asked the education committee to look at the level of disruption in classrooms. A survey has shown that most local authorities and schools have worked out satisfactory policies. Disruptive pupils with a history of misconduct should not be singled out when there is trouble "or in a way that gives them credibility among their peers".

Punishments should be appropriate, fair and consistent, and not demeaning. "Group punishment and punishment to set an example" should be avoided.

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