Support first and foremost

5th March 2004 at 00:00
The Education (Additional Support for Learning) Bill will help ensure that all pupils who need additional support are given the support they need towards achieving their full potential whilst at school.

Judith Moore's Platform piece (TESS, February 20), while acknowledging the value of its key aims, painted an unfair and inaccurate picture of the Bill.

She indicated that its provisions would create extreme difficulties, and that resources would not be forthcoming to allow its implementation.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Children with additional support needs must be given the help they need, something the current outdated and bureaucratic system cannot guarantee.

This is the exact reason we proposed the Bill in the first instance.

The new system will be user-friendly. It will be easier for parents to have their children assessed and any disputes can be considered through independent mediation. If the pupil has, or is being considered for, a co-ordinated support plan, families also have the option of appealing any disagreement to a tribunal.

The funding we have allocated to the Bill - pound;12 million in 2004-05 and a further pound;14 million the year after - clearly demonstrates the importance which we attach to this legislation. This funding is in addition to the funding spent on special educational needs by local authorities in Scotland which runs to in excess of pound;200 million per annum.

Judith Moore's piece contains a number of inaccuracies. For example, she states: "The authorities must also assess children in independent schools who may have additional support needs . . ." In fact, no such duty is imposed on authorities by this Bill. Authorities may assess children with additional support needs in independent schools if the parents request it, but authorities are under no obligation to do so. So this provision in the Bill should not result in extra demands on educational psychologists or local authority support for learning teachers.

In developing this Bill, we have worked closely with relevant stakeholder groups, including those who will be expected to deliver its provisions. We had an active consultation process which improved the original draft Bill and which has taken into account many of the issues raised by Judith Moore.

We are absolutely committed to delivering excellence at all levels in our schools. This Bill, when enacted, will ensure that every child has the chance to benefit from the opportunities school gives them.

Euan Robson

Deputy Minister for Education and Young People

Scottish Executive

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