Three strands to support problem children
The authority has no special needs schools and places only eight pupils in schools outwith its boundaries, demonstrating how close it is towards meeting the national inclusion agenda.
"We now have three strands within the service," Douglas Wilson, Moray's inclusion and support manager, explains. "Two involve offsite facilities in Elgin, at Beechbrae Education Centre and at Pinefield Parc. The third is an outreach scheme.
"Our aim is to develop a range of specialist services which, primarily, focus on supporting children in schools rather than developing alternative schools. Beechbrae, for example, is not an alternative to mainstream schooling; it is a learning centre where we can work with young people on a part-time basis while they are still attending their mainstream schools," Mr Wilson says.
"The focus is to try to support young people in their school, home and in their community, without necessarily impingeing on the welfare of other children in the class. That is always a fine balance and difficult to maintain. Exclusion is a measure we want to regard as he exception."
The outreach system is considered to be the most important strand of the inclusion strategy. This involves a combined effort by the education and social work departments and a partnership with Aberlour Childcare Trust. The principle is to devolve staffing and decision-making to local planning and assessment groups so that support for vulnerable young people is decided by those who best know the child.
"The way it works is that the joint local planning meeting is called to work out what to do when a pupil is causing concern. There may be issues of family support, in-class support or support outwith school hours to be decided upon. The decision is taken at the local level. My role will be to devolve staff to the area concerned to provide that support," Mr Wilson says.
Inclusion, he believes, is not a cheap option. It is difficult, time-consuming and, for other families, can be contentious.
"What I have told headteachers is that inclusion does not necessarily mean the classroom is the best environment to promote a young person's abilities, needs and aspirations. We have to be open-minded about the kinds of environments we need to create for children with special educational needs," Mr Wilson admits.