Opinions split over future of SEN inclusion

11th August 2000 at 01:00
DISAGREEMENT about what is meant by inclusive education has surfaced again in responses to last year's Riddell report on children with severe disabilities. But the Executive is pleased at the level of support for its policy of encouraging mainstream provision while recognising that some children will need specialist provision.

An analysis of comments by 200 organisations states: "For some respondents integration of children in mainstream schools was essential to good inclusive practice, while others did not see special placements and inclusive approaches as mutually exclusive."

Special schools in particular felt that not all children can cope with mainstream education.

The Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act includes a presumption that all children with special needs will be educated in mainstream school provision. Meanwhile a new Westminster Bill on disability, which is not a devolved function, will ensure that Scottish education authorities and grant-aied and independent schools do not discriminate unfairly against children with disabilities and make changes to policies and buildings where discrimination at present exists. The Executive says it is considering how planning, which is a devolved issue, can be used to improve access to schools.

Many of the issues arising from the Riddell report's 22 recommendations have already been passed to the national SEN advisory forum chaired by Peter Peacock, Deputy Children and Education Minister. Among them is the future of the record of needs. Formally, the Executive refers only to whether the record should be improved or updated. But Mr Peacock said last month that its continuance is "inconceivable".

Criticism that the record is too cumbersome, time-consuming and discriminatory was expressed by some respondents to the Riddell report. Parents complained about the time taken to open a record, variations in recording rates and the lack of statutory appeal rights.

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