Wrong to cut pupil hours

10th July 1998 at 01:00
I was interested to read the article by Paul Dumbleton. "The more you need, the less you get" (TESS, June 12). This concerned the fact that in many special schools, the school day is shorter than in ordinary schools.

I agree with Paul Dumbleton that the various arguments that are made to support this practice do not hold water. It is also disturbing that even when children with special educational needs are being educated in supposedly "integrated" settings, their school day may be shorter than that of other pupils.

My daughter attends a unit attached to a mainstream secondary school. Three of the criteria laid down by the education authority for admission to this unit relate to prospective pupils' potential to benefit from integration. Nevertheless, no sooner had this unit opened (operating ordinary school hours of 8.55am-3.40pm) than an attempt was made to shorten the day to 9.30am-3pm. The reason given at this point was the need for staff to have regular team meeting times.

We were also told that the new shortened day was in line with special school contracts. Resistance from parents to the shortening of the school day shelved the issue for a year. Then, it was decided (with no consultation with parents) that children attending this unit would start at 10am on Wednesdays missing an hour of teaching time every week.

The children of the parents who continued to object are "looked after" by non teaching staff for that hour, while teaching staff meetings are held. The children of the other parents come to school an hour later every Wednesday. At the very least, children with special educational needs should arrive at and leave school at the same time as everyone else and benefit from the same amount of teaching.

Your editorial of the same issue suggests that teacher convenience is what is really at the root of various practices that parents are now questioning. I'm sure that this is so. In the case of children with special educational needs there is also the lingering suspicion that their education is regarded as being of less importance than that of their peers.

Sue Gutteridge Clarendon Road Stirling

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