Tories call for reform of mainstreaming policy

Conservatives argue that growing numbers of pupils with additional needs are not flourishing in Scotland's mainstream schools

Henry Hepburn

Tories call for reform of mainstreaming policy

The requirement for most pupils with additional support needs (ASN) to go to mainstream schools should be reformed, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

In a debate at the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, the Tories will argue for their motion that a "growing number of young people with special educational needs are not being well served by being placed in inclusive mainstream education".

The party wants the Scottish government to review the “presumption to mainstream” policy, to ensure there is "more effective uptake of places in special schools and special units".

Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: "Let's be very clear, inclusive education is seen as one of the great strengths of Scottish education, part of which is the presumption to mainstream all young people unless very special circumstances arise.

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"However, while the policy continues to bring rich reward for the vast majority of young people, both in terms of their educational experience and their social development, there is a growing minority for whom mainstream education is not appropriate."

The latest Scottish government statistics from December showed that 28.7 per cent of pupils (199,065) had a recorded additional support need in 2018, continuing a long-term sequence of year-on-year rises.

Ms Smith said: "Most of them cope very well in mainstream classes but many do not and shouldn't be there.”

She added: "The Scottish government needs to rethink how it can deliver a better educational experience for young people who are not suited to the mainstream classroom.

"That includes reassessing the effective uptake of places in special schools and special units, and making the best use of specialist staff."

'Cuts have left schools struggling'

A Scottish government spokesman said: "All children and young people should get the support that they need to reach their full learning potential.

"We have listened to the experiences of children and families about getting the support that they need and our new guidance on mainstreaming, based on research and consultation, will be published shortly."

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said that “years of austerity cuts to ASN resources and staffing have left schools struggling to meet the specialist requirements of pupils with ASN”,

In a recent survey by the union, one of the biggest concerns identified by teachers was around the level of ASN provision in their school.

Mr Flanagan added: “The principle of mainstreaming pupils with ASN remains fundamentally sound, but it can only be delivered successfully where adequate funding, resources and specialist staff are put in place to support it.

“Sadly, the evidence from our recent survey indicates that this is not currently the case, and significant investment is needed to ensure that all young people with ASN can receive the support they require throughout their school education.”

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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