Schools quick to restore order
This forthright claim was made at the weekend by Morag Gunion, lead HMI on additional support needs. Ms Gunion based her claim on findings from school inspections in eight authorities over the past year and on a questionnaire to all local authorities.
The aim was to assess the implementation of recommendations in the Scottish Executive's Better Behaviour - Better Learning report, issued in 2001.
Ms Gunion told delegates to the annual conference of the Scottish Support for Learning Association: "Standards of behaviour in the majority of Scottish schools are good - and teachers are happy about that."
A full HMI report on how schools are responding to the 36 recommendations in the discipline report is expected by the end of next year.
At this stage, Ms Gunion felt able to say: "There is increasing confidence in managing behaviour in schools that are well led. More schools than ever are showing improvements in absences and exclusions. There are improving practices - and schools seem better equipped to tackle behaviour problems.
There is also progress on inclusion with more children being included in the life of the school."
An HMI assessment, however, is rarely entirely upbeat and Ms Gunion added that the overall picture remains "mixed", with more progress found in primaries than in secondaries. "There is still room for improvement," she warned.
She refuted "the myth that special schools are shutting down because children with special education needs are finding themselves in mainstream".
Figures show there has been a tiny drop in the proportion of the school population in special schools, from 1.09 per cent to 1.05 per cent between 1998 and 2003. At the same time, there had been an increase from 56 per cent to 61 per cent in the number of children with a record of needs in mainstream classes - but this could be because more authorities are recording.
"Inclusion in any case is not about numbers but about how well the provision for children is working," Ms Gunion said.
The inspectorate's analysis has found that only 8 per cent of schools inspected so far this year were rated as very good in meeting the needs of individual pupils and 60 per cent good. Learning support provision fared better, with 31 per cent clocking up a very good rating and 50 per cent judged to be good.
Ms Gunion said: "There is good work going on in the majority of schools but what about the others?"