After the fourth of five discussions marking the 40th anniversary of The TESS, the professionals' hope for Scotland's education system is for an inclusive attitude, whether in mainstream or special schools, so that pupils will venture into the adult world well-equipped to thrive
This is an edited transcript of the proceedings held in Glasgow in early December, part of the series of five education conversations to mark the 40th anniversary of The TES Scotland.
Participants discussed the fourth theme of the Scottish Executive's Ambitious, Excellent Schools blueprint: "support for learning for young people in challenging circumstances".
We hope these discussions will challenge received wisdom about what should be going on in schools and stimulate fresh thinking.
Neil Munro Editor
THE CIVIL SERVANT Mike Gibson Head of additional support needs division Scottish Executive Education Department
Iwould like to explore four broad themes in the area of support for learning: mainstreaming, the Additional Support for Learning Act 2004, integrated community schools and pastoral care.
The mainstreaming legislation, as set out in the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. Act, 2000, refers to a presumption of mainstreaming. The dictionary meaning of presumption is an attitude adopted towards something in the absence of contrary factors. The presumption here means that children should be in mainstream schools unless contrary factors apply.
Section 15 of the 2000 Act states clearly what these contrary factors are: they are where placement in mainstream would not be suited to the ability or aptitude of the child; or would be incompatible with the provision of efficient education for the children with whom the child would be educated; or would result in unreasonable public expenditure being incurred.
Sometimes people forget that the presumption is not a one-size-fits-all attitude. The presumption does not mean children should be shoehorned into mainstream schools at all costs. The needs of all children must be taken into account, the child experiencing difficulty and the needs of other children who might be affected if a child takes up so much time and resource that others miss out. So, we will always need specialist placements.
But it is important to try a range of strategies to help a child experience a mainstream school, and many schools do a good job of this. If strategies are tried and fail, then that is when the question of specialist placement kicks in, but these decisions must be regularly reviewed. A placement in specialist provision can be short-term and enable successful reintegration into mainstream on a much happier basis.
It is important for us to remember that the reason the presumption was introduced was that many parents believed their children were being placed in special schools without alternatives being considered. Mainstreaming should be our starting point.
It is appropriate to be holding this event now, less than a month after the start of the Additional Support for Learning Act. If the Act was disadvantaging children with special needs, then you would expect the big agencies and charities to oppose it. However, Children in Scotland and the Disability Rights Commission support the Act. Capability Scotland said:
"The new legislation should be a significant milestone in the education of children and young people with additional support needs."
It is easy to forget that, under the old system, those with special educational needs and without records of needs were not well-served. Even those with records were not particularly well-served because the record was toothless; parents could not appeal against the provision being made.
The duty owed to individuals under the Additional Support for Learning Act to make adequate and efficient provision for such additional support as is required for each individual child with additional support needs is a powerful duty. It applies to all children with additional support needs, including those who would not have had a record under the old system. So what we have is a vast improvement.
The Act is attracting a lot of positive interest within the UK. In particular, the concept of additional support needs is being seen as helpful and ground-breaking. Let Scotland and all those who contributed to the consultation on the legislation take the credit for some good ideas.
Moving on to integrated community schools, much good work has been undertaken to better integrate services in response to this initiative and, in a real sense, that policy initiative has been a success. But it is no longer sensible to think about integrated community schools in isolation from a number of other policies, such as "Getting it Right for Every Child", integrated inspections, integrated planning, integrated assessment, the Additional Support for Learning Act and Hall4 on the health side.
Schools have a key role to play in the integrated children's services agenda, but there is now a collective responsibility among agencies to integrate the services and it is not for schools to do this on their own.
It is about the school working in partnership with other agencies to provide the most effective services for all children within a community.
On guidance and pastoral care, the teachers' agreement has already signalled a shift in culture where teachers now have a duty of care to pupils.
Part of a teacher's contract is to promote and safeguard the health, welfare and safety of pupils. This does not mean that teachers need to have specialist skills as psychologists or social workers but, rather, as sensitive human beings who are aware when a pupil is experiencing difficulties.
A teacher should be able to provide first-line guidance. The role of specialist staff in school should be to support teachers, providing advice and support when non-specialist staff do not have the right skills.
Specialists should also have the knowledge to meet a child's need and to co-ordinate other agencies to produce the right response when the situation is more complex.
THE HEADTEACHER Mary Mimnagh Newhills special school, Glasgow
We have high hopes that the ASL legislation will help our young people come through the process of transition from school to post-school provision because this is one area where we face the keenest and most difficult challenges.
As Newhills is a secondary school, we need to keep our sights very firmly on the plans we need to make to achieve the future life that our pupils have the right to expect. We now have great hopes for our pupils' future, unlike past times when pupils had very bleak prospects indeed.
In the past, it was thought not possible for people in our types of school to prosper. In my own experience, when cold-calling employers, the guard comes up if you bring along a support worker. But when my young people come to leave school, they will still need these supports.
Records of needs supports stated what a child needed in school, but not when he or she left school. The ASL Act, hopefully, will detail post-school support needs and offer a better transition.
The record of needs may have ended, but our young people's lives were ongoing. Now we have the ASL Act with its co-ordinated support plan and individual learning plan, where the input of all the agencies involved with a young person will be formally recorded and these agencies will be required, where appropriate, to form good sustainable links while the young person is still at school.
Our hope is that, through this Act, we can build on these teams to achieve a seamless transition for our pupils to the post-school world.
THE LOCAL AUTHORITY EXECUTIVE John Mulgrew Director of educational and social services East Ayrshire Council
There are various strands of legislation and ring-fenced initiatives we have to weave into a coherent plan. The idea of school being almost in isolation is really gone. We are talking about school, not just as part of a community, but as something pulling together professionals from different backgrounds.
They are expected to work in support of the school, particularly to help those who have additional support needs, and that is hard to deliver. It requires a change of culture and attitudes. There also has to be recognition of people involved with the training and qualifications of those supporting children.
How do you start to bring about an evolution and change in culture? It has been fascinating to see how the emphasis in the delivery of education services has changed since local government reorganisation in 1996. The steady move towards the delivery of integrated services can only serve to enhance the quality and quantity of support for the most vulnerable in our midst.
I regard that as a key priority and principal focus for what we aim to achieve in local government. In fact, the title director of education has almost disappeared, reflecting the emphasis within councils on delivering integrated services.
In East Ayrshire, I have introduced multi-disciplinary learning partnerships. Regularly, representatives of education, social services, community learning and development, health, the police and local community interests come together to develop and implement an agenda for action within the local community.
Headteachers are able, in a sub-group, to continue to pursue matters relating to the organisation and content of the curriculum on offer in schools, and that is important. However, the joined-up work which has been developed has clearly resulted in the most vulnerable in our area being better supported than before. The young people themselves express this view.
But there remain a number of issues of concern. Are those in teacher training working with community learning, social work and additional support specialists? We don't start early enough talking through these issues and changing the culture.
THE TEACHER Wilma Murphy Principal teacher of support for learning Smithycroft Secondary, Glasgow
We have all tried to work together. Whether enshrining it in legislation will make it happen and bring together all the people who have a locus with a child is another question.
Specialist provision is not readily available. I recently attended a session led by a former speech and language therapist where their method of working, assessing need and impact was described. It was useful because now I know how they make their decisions.
The practice is that a school, or GP, refers a child for speech and language therapy. A letter is then sent to the parents, asking them to contact the hospital or clinic, inviting them to make an appointment. An appointment letter is sent to the family requiring the parent to take the child to the hospital or clinic. If the parents do not take the child to appointments, the child is removed from the list. It seems to me that is visiting the sins of the parents on the children.
Also, in my experience, the only way you find out if a child has an appointment is if the child tells you. At the moment, the school is not invited to be a partner in supporting the therapist's work.
This can lead to a very frustrating situation where a child in need of specialist help cannot have it because of the system.
For example, I was working with a child who came in S1 with a severe speech impairment and was severely dyslexic. I have been working with her on reading skills, but she can't pronounce sounds properly, so how can I tell if she is learning to read?
Eventually, she was given an appointment in speech and therapy when in primary, but the onus was on her parents to take the child to Yorkhill.
They didn't get to the appointment, so she was taken off the list. There are further barriers to her learning to read and write because of that.
THE EDUCATIONALIST Bernard McLeary Chief executive Learning and Teaching Scotland
My view is that children who learn together, learn to live together.
Inclusion should focus on educating each child to the maximum extent appropriate in mainstream schools and classrooms.
Therefore, we must start off by assuming that the first placement is in mainstream classes and we must ensure that we bring the support services to the child, not the other way round. However, there must also be a continuum of placement options available, including separate specialist provision, should mainstream be found not to be the most appropriate answer.
Inclusion is not easy. It requires not just professional commitment, but also resources and professional development to achieve it.
Research shows that there can be beneficial effects from inclusion for pupils in terms of academic and social outcomes. However, the real benefit of an inclusive classroom, for all pupils and society, is that it promotes the social value of equality.
THE ACADEMIC Brian Boyd Professor of education Strathclyde University
It seems to me that there is a question to be asked at the start and that is: Do we want to live in an inclusive society, or not? I do, and I think we need to ask what can education do to help create such a society.
With the publication of A Curriculum for Excellence, we are closer to having a coherent set of aims for schooling, ie to produce young people who are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. What we need to do now is to begin discussions with everyone who has an interest in education, including young people, about what the curriculum should look like to achieve these aims.
Inclusion is about a belief system which has faith in every human being's potential to be a successful learner. As renowned child psychologist Reuven Feuerstein puts it: "Chromosomes do not have the last word." We need to equip and empower teachers.
From my own research with Paul Hamill, head of special needs at Strathclyde, it is clear that teachers have not felt included in policy-making or in discussions about what inclusion means. They may believe in inclusion in theory, but feel it can't be achieved in practice without resources, training, reduction in class sizes and a shift in focus away from exam results being the measuring of effectiveness.
If we want to close the gap between the bottom 20 per cent and the rest, we will need some radical thinking and we will need our best teachers working in the most challenging schools.
THE CONSULTANT Clive Fairweather Former chief inspector of prisons and adviser to the axed Airborne Initiative for young offenders
I come at this discussion from four different points of the compass.
Firstly, I was excluded myself from school. Secondly, my son was found to have behavioural difficulties and had to attend a special support school.
Thirdly, as chief inspector of prisons from 1994-2002, I saw at first hand how the Scottish Prison Service dealt with difficult prisoners or those needing special support. Finally, I was an adviser to the (now defunct) Airborne Initiative, which attempted to re-educate young offenders in a residential setting.
When my son was eventually excluded from mainstream school for the final time, I was in agreement that he could no longer go on disrupting the learning of other pupils in a busy curriculum. Equally, there came the realisation that teachers not only didn't have the time to deal with him, they also didn't have the training or understanding.
It was a particular relief, therefore, for all concerned, when he arrived in a school which had staff who had special training or at least some insight into what special support might mean.
After some time, I also came to realise how much effect his peer group in that school had in providing each other with support. My only regret now is that his problems were not identified accurately and early enough for him to be returned to mainstream school, which would have been the best preparation for a career after special support. Instead, he is learning the hard way in mainstream life.
The Scottish Prison Service also learned the hard way and, after many expensive episodes of a few disruptive prisoners causing huge and expensive damage to buildings and, more importantly, to other individuals, took to experimenting with small special support units.
What made them special was not necessarily the inmates but the staff who had been selected and trained to meet their needs, which must surely be the key to any special support system. These units, which had the central aim of returning prisoners to the mainstream, were very successful in reducing the temperature in prisons in Scotland. They provided a safe environment in which staff acted as facilitators and firm role models, while prisoners interacted with each other in group sessions.
Further refinement was provided by a national induction unit, another specially created unit, which took in all long-term prisoners at the very start of sentence and prepared them for what lay ahead, again using specially selected staff. More importantly, an early assessment of those who would continue to need special support became possible, which meant valuable time getting back to the mainstream was not lost.
The Airborne Initiative aimed to stop a lot of disruptive individuals going to prison. I learnt from that initiative that people need to get away from their peer group and have time to themselves with special staff to be able to develop some of the skills that had become lost, probably as young as four.
I read every case file and nearly all had been excluded from school, like me, and had had difficulties with family that started way back.
It attempted, over the course of several months, to offer a special environment to high tariff offenders. One of its key features was a residential setting that allowed offenders to get away from the influences of fellow disruptors on housing estates, and to work with a new peer group intent on making permanent changes to their behaviour and prospects. Staff were specially selected and trained to facilitate this and were enormously patient.
The three main lessons I draw from these experiences are: the need for early identification and measurement of special support needs; the need for specially selected and trained staff as role models who can direct and facilitate group and individual development; and the need for all actions to aim at getting individuals back to the mainstream at the earliest, but safest, opportunity, though this may not always be possible.
THE YOUNG PERSON Rajiv Joshi Chair Scottish Youth Parliament
In inclusion, there needs to be a cultural shift, a shift that includes respecting young people more. If we want young people to aspire to more, we need to treat them with more respect and give them the facilities and environment in which they can strive for more. Schools should be exciting, dynamic places where young people can thrive.
Integrated community schools are a good idea. If services are being brought to young people, then that is a big step forward, instead of young people having to go out and find services, even transport.
Integrating services is, therefore, a cultural shift for young people too.
There is an additional aspect to integrated community schools, which is that young people should understand the needs of their peers.
I used to volunteer at a special school. I came from a mainstream school where there was no understanding of young people with special needs or how we could understand what these special needs are so we can work together and play together.
It took a long time for all these young people to be working together. It was all about teaching that each of them has an equal part to play, and they have to learn about each other's needs.
THE COUNCILLOR Gordon Matheson Education vice-convener Glasgow City Council
We feel we are well placed to deliver on better support for learning. The secondary school estate in Glasgow is best in the UK. All of our schools are either completely renovated or new-build. We are in phase four of developing our primary estate.
A lot of these schools are genuine community schools. They deliver not just 9am to 3pm education, but the community uses the services outside these hours too.
The new learning communities are our model for integrated community schools. One of the crucial components within each of the new learning communities is its joint planning forum. These are the forums for senior managers in each of the key services to respond to the needs of children and young people at a local level. They clearly reflect the joint commitment between the council and its key partners to continue to develop provision which is flexible and responsive to local need.
This activity is complemented by wider collaboration between council services and other partners as we build access to other provision such as vocational education.
The education service in Glasgow is working closely with the Scottish Executive on developing an approach to better profile and respond to individual need. There is an emphasis on the participation of the child and young person, particularly those who are experiencing challenges which could be a barrier to achieving their potential.
We welcome the 10 standards for personal support in schools, which strongly reinforce our pastoral care provision. We have a continuous improvement plan on provision for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties, addressing themes of continuous professional development, in mainstream as well as in special schools. Accommodation needs are taken into account in our pre-12 strategy.
We know that we have real issues in Glasgow, principally in achievement and attainment in education. We also face numbers who have English as a second language or are bilingual or are asylum seekers. We are bottom of the table for health and education, but we are determined to engage with the agenda for better support for learning.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST Alan McLean Education psychologist Glasgow
I welcome the ASL Act as it broadens our thinking into supportive contexts and classroom climates. This discussion has highlighted another value for me. The ASL Act and A Curriculum for Excellence both make our values and goals explicit for the first time.
We also need to make children's engagement in learning as explicit as possible, in order to support those who are struggling to adapt and to challenge or support those who resist or oppose.
I think Rajiv's point about the peer group is crucial. Inclusion will stand or fall on the response of the peer group, so their contribution is vital, perhaps even more important than that of teachers.
I have been working with Primary 7 pupils in a mastery motivation class. We have been looking at the stances they take towards learning and how much responsibility they can take for their own learning.
Many of the exercises touch on sensitive interpersonal perceptions that shape the classroom climate but are rarely talked about. The pupils have entered into these discussions with keen interest, rating each other sensitively and discreetly.
A group of pupils from two classes will now run workshops for teachers on what motivates them and how teachers can get the best from them.
Achievement and inclusion are both profoundly psychological processes. The good news is that young people today are open to psychology. They have huge levels of emotional intelligence and are keen to find out about themselves.
The bad news is that when you talk to them, they don't understand that narrative; it's too abstract. It's made me realise that all this reform debate is totally adult-centred with little pupil voice or participation. So it would seem essential that we develop materials on a curriculum for excellence for a pupil audience.
We are asking so much of our schools, particularly secondary schools. The more we understand children, the more we expect our education system to have an impact on them.
As a psychologist talking to teachers for 25 years, I spent last year listening to them. I am worried about the process demoralising teachers. I don't think SEED, HMIE and councils are sufficiently tuned into teachers, particularly the expectations of them in secondary schools. I feel schools are getting clobbered.
There are huge tensions in meeting individual needs and individualising what are structural, contextual problems. Schools need autonomy to judge who isn't suitable for mainstream, but only when we have an agreed framework for assessing that and an alternative.
All schools should have equal access to external resources, according to their needs. Inclusion is entitlement to the most appropriate provision.
I don't think many people realise the real scale or nature of the challenge, particularly in inner city areas, where we have embedded under-achievement, community cultures not supportive of learning and school structures that are incompatible for some pupils.
Although we make a huge investment in the most challenging pupils, often for little return, they still impact on the other pupils.
There are profound barriers to engagement that HMIE, quality improvement officers, etc, ignore or are unaware of and have limited understanding of.
This can, at times, leave teachers a bit demoralised.
In addition, things like violence in the community, loss and bereavement, absent and unpredictable fathers make an impact. Disruptive behaviour, youth offending and drugalcohol misuse are all connected. We need to develop tools to illuminate the complex issues and provide an assessment and intervention matrix.
We need good practice shared, and initiatives coherently developed, within this framework, along with conceptualisation of children's emotional development. We need to distinguish, in terms of complexity, depth and persistence of disengagement.
Early identification of those at risk allows long-term planning and develops an overview of their needs, transparent and consistent prioritisation, a more equitable distribution of resources and can also articulate how the different agencies could contribute.
Most problem pupils don't come with explanatory labels. We assume wrongly they're in control of being out of control. With our one-size-fits-all system, if children don't fit they must have emotional and behavioural difficulties.
Yet, there is no government definition or professional agreement about what constitutes EBD. Ascribing this label is a value judgement, more politics than science.
Schools are normative and judgmental in how they type pupils, but their norms and values are rarely made explicit. This needs whole-school training where perceptions are shared. Helping frame intuitive judgments and enhance professional subjectivity takes us beyond our one-dimensional thinking.
My research in Glasgow of 1,400 10-year-olds has thrown up a significant issue. Children who are young when they start school seem to be disadvantaged significantly in comparison to older pupils, especially boys, and in particular able boys. There is constant catch-up for those who start young in their school year.
THE TEACHER Wilma Murphy
I was interested to hear what Rajiv was saying about creating a culture of respect for young people and tapping into what could be a powerful resource.
I have one situation where a young person with ADHD is being impressively supported by his peer group. In a sense, the class has been taken into the confidence of the pastoral care teacher, the support for learning teacher and the educational psychologist.
ADHD was explained to them and they were invited to reflect on how it affects them, as well as their classmate, and what they could do to support the pupil. More than half the class volunteered to be part of a circle of friends, meeting weekly to discuss with him his targets and how they could help him to exercise more control over his behaviour.
There is no blame culture; quite the opposite. It also has a knock-on effect on members of the group who, having been given this responsibility, are more aware of the impact of their own behaviour on those around them.
This is a resource we are missing out on: children who in P7 were active in their schools, taking on all kinds of responsibility, then going to the bottom of the heap and having no role.
I also have to agree with Alan McLean about the size of the problem of disengaged learners. There is enormous pressure on class and subject teachers, not to mention support for learning and pastoral care teams, to meet these needs.
THE HEADTEACHER Mary Mimnagh
Although SEN schools will continue to be separate establishments at present, nothing is ever static and, maybe, in future we could have total mainstreaming of all pupils.
However, for the present, I would support Robert Brown, the deputy education minister, who said (TESS, November 11): "SEN schools are needed alongside mainstream schools. Mainstreaming is a presumption, not an inflexible rule."
But, while SEN schools are separate, we do not want to be excluded. We very much want to be included. SEN schools are demonstrating a range of links with a wide number of pupils, as well as raising awareness and sharing good practice.
Pupils at Newhills, for example, attend Eastbank Academy. In the beginning, they used the home economics, art and design and IT base for facilities only, but these links have now progressed. Pupils from Eastbank Academy now work alongside Newhills pupils for part of these lessons. Through these links, pupils start preparation for their future place in society and, in particular, the work place.
To continue to ensure pupils achieve and attain, we need to have well trained and confident staff. If we are truly committed to the presumption of mainstreaming, the training of staff would be best embedded in the initial teacher training courses. This would have a two-fold effect: a workforce equipped to work with SEN pupils in mainstream schools, and it would also encourage more teachers into SEN schools.
Training is a major issue. I am never going to be able to attract good teachers into my school unless they have a bit more training for special needs.
THE ACADEMIC Brian Boyd
At Strathclyde University campus, we train teachers as well as specialists in community education, social work and speech therapy. Are they learning together? No. So we are all culpable.
One of the reasons is timetabling demands. But if we really wanted to do it, we would make it an imperative.
I wanted to pick up on Rajiv's point about respect. Child psychologist Reuben Feuerstein says that every child can be an effective learner. Are all young people in our schools valued or respected equally? These are the kinds of questions being asked of school systems around the world. Are we preparing young people to learn how to learn and to be flexible enough to meet challenges which we can only guess at?
We simply can't afford underachievement, socially, economically or educationally.
One of the biggest reasons teachers give for not being in favour of inclusion is the demand to improve examination results. We need to stop using examinations as the only way of measuring a school's effectiveness and look at new ways of examining. In trying to improve attainment, we have to be careful we don't create new forms of exclusion. We need to shift the emphasis to "better learning, better behaviour", rather than the other way round. But we also need to recognise that, for some young people, at different stages in their lives, a mainstream school is not the best place for them.
THE COMMUNITY WORKER Claire Lambie Community learning worker Glasgow
We need to be working with children from day one. If you take the example of sectarianism, these ideas are already implanted by the time the children get to school. Mothers and fathers have already implanted them, which makes our job 10 times more difficult.
Maybe you have a mother or a father telling them they can't play with other children because they are in a wheelchair. So, the younger you teach children, the more inclusive the system is.
If we look at the ASL Act, the responsibility for a co-ordinated support programme should not only reside with teaching staff and special needs professionals but take into account the whole person from an early age, ie nursery.
For the young person's health, social and emotional wellbeing, the co-ordinated support plan must consider a holistic professional approach.
Thus, there must be informal input from nursery teachers, community learning workers and youth workers as well as support from social work staff, health workers and organisations that can provide the knowledge and skills for positive transition from primary to secondary school and from school to employment and training. The support plan will therefore encompass activities and programmes outside the curriculum.
THE EDUCATIONALIST Bernard McLeary
This is the first time in 30 years in education that I see pupil-centred education coming in. I think there is now national support for teachers and recognition of the challenges that teachers face.
There is recognition that the majority of teachers are doing a very good job with pupils, and schools are increasingly working towards meeting individual needs and making learning active, challenging and enjoyable.
Evidence shows that schools do a great deal to promote pupils' good behaviour and an appropriate ethos.
A Curriculum for Excellence and other national policies provide us with a set of values which underpin our practice in relation to young people's development, and they give teachers clarity about what education is seeking to achieve. But there needs to be recognition that what we are trying to do is to treat young people as individuals, not as a mass.
A Curriculum for Excellence is looking for different skills and dispositions to be developed. A country needs able young people for its future. What we are about is creativity and flexibility for teachers.
THE LOCAL AUTHORITY EXECUTIVE John Mulgrew
In recent months, I have been involved in East Ayrshire in piloting the new model for local authority inspection and, when the results of this exercise are made known, it will be acknowledged that all authorities wishing to perform well within this new framework will be required to place considerable emphasis on integrated services.
It is my firm belief that, if professional boundaries are dissolved, professionalism is not compromised and stronger and more positive service delivery is the result.
It concerns me that opportunities for joint professional working in preparing future professionals are being missed. Now that initial teacher education is firmly based in universities across Scotland, the next step must surely be taken quickly to arrange for those in training to have joint development opportunities and, as a consequence, a better understanding of each other's role. Further, I believe that this integrated training should take place within local communities.
We have to move forward in terms of initial training for professionals in Scotland.
THE YOUNG PERSON Rajiv Joshi
The question remains: how do we move towards becoming an innovative society? We still don't have a curriculum in schools to make young people think for themselves.
If young people can be taught to think out of the box, then we can make the progress we strive for. If we can't, then there is something missing in our system.
THE COUNCILLOR Gordon Matheson
We have to be sophisticated about how we respond to this agenda. We must not accept deprivation as an excuse for failure. There is a danger that, as we approach this agenda of improving achievements as well as attainment, there can be inverted snobbery.
I recently moved house, so I have had to call in crafts people.
I have huge respect for their skills and they are in demand. I have a sense that we are short-changing people if we don't produce those who are not achieving academic excellence.
In Glasgow, we recognise that the themes of teenage pregnancy, the effects of drug and alcohol misuse and domestic abuse are also being actively addressed, as are issues related to disability and discrimination of all forms.
We have strong provision relating to anti-racism and anti-sectarianism - essential if we are to ensure that young people benefit equally from their learning.
The Additional Support for Learning Act is a milestone in Scottish education. The key to a successful response to this challenging agenda is to get the balance right between the rights and responsibilities of all the young people involved and to develop education provision which is highly valued for its diversity by all the stakeholders.
Our definition of inclusion is an entitlement to access services and provision which best meets needs.
THE YOUTH WORKER Christine Carlton Youth project worker Glasgow
In special schools, everyone tries to help each other, and most of the help comes from pupils. This is more difficult in mainstream schools because most people have not been brought up in an environment of wheelchair users, so they don't know how to get on with people in wheelchairs.
If people were educated a lot younger, it would be better. When they get up to secondary schools, by then used to an environment with wheelchair users, they would respond better.
I speak to young people in schools and in youth clubs about the different problems I have. I am in a wheelchair after an accident crossing the road.
After I talk with them, I let them sit in a wheelchair and push themselves around. I tell them they are not allowed to use anything but their hands. I see how they feel: most of them don't like the fact that they are not able to move about as much.
THE YOUTH WORKER Nicola Moffat Youth worker Glasgow
Continuous training and development must be established when working with young people who have special needs. This training must not only be offered to teaching staff, but to all practitioners working with young people.
I have just graduated from Jordanhill in community education.
It would be amazing if we had the chance to train in that field as well. I have youth work training but am not specialised. To have the opportunity to work in inclusion groups for special needs and young people in mainstream, and with schools, would be great.
Specialised training would provide staff with the competence to deal with young people with behavioural, physical or mental disabilities. In turn, integrated support programmes, both formal and informal, can be established as a result. This would build on the young person's talents and abilities, whether in academic studies, through trade and industry or in vocational training programmes.
In all this, young people must have access to a range of opportunities so that they can contribute to the decision-making process. This is where the dialogue youth initiative must be implemented. This is where Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament can engage with people in their constituencies, developing forums and delivering information about services for young people, so that young people can have their say and influence the services we provide.
THE CIVIL SERVANT Mike Gibson
This has been a very interesting discussion. I think there is a consensus that the mainstreaming route is the correct one. There is the point that inclusion is more than mainstreaming and that inclusion can occur even in specialist settings. The converse is that you can be excluded in mainstream, so we can't assume that mainstream equals inclusion.
John and Gordon both made the point that the recent improvements in the school estate provide good opportunities for promoting inclusion.
Wilma Murphy described a particular situation where a child did not receive speech and language therapy because the mother failed to keep the hospital appointments, and the child was discharged. I think this illustrates an important point: the child should be at the centre and we should deliver services to the child, not vice versa.
There is a need to ensure there is respect and children are taught in ways that make them think they are valued. And if the teacher's skills improve, then she can help more than one child.
We are all aware that examination results are not the only measure of pupils' achievements and that we need to make sure we acknowledge the many ways that recognise pupils' talents and achievements. This is an issue that Ambitious, Excellent Schools has in its sights. We need to take account of other things that young people do.
We are making progress in bringing services to the child, rather than the child to the services. People made good points about teachers and CPD, and there was Mary's point about a lot of strengths in special schools. Sharing expertise across the specialised and mainstream sectors is an area to take forward.
Rajiv, Alan and others stressed the importance of the peer group and argued it was an untapped resource. The peer group potentially has a very constructive role to play in helping to support children who might otherwise be marginalised.
That was most surprising for me. We need to tap into peer groups more, not just in supporting other children but teachers as well. So, if I take something new out of all this, it is the benefit of peer groups. I was aware of it before, but not of how important it is.