Jan Savage explains why the Scottish Parliament is debating how to improve education for children with learning disabilities this week
This week the deputy first minister and cabinet secretary for education and skills said the status quo is “not an option" for Scottish education. We agree!
More than 800 young people who have a learning disability, parents, and teachers, joined Enable Scotland's national conversation – #IncludED in the Main?! – telling us about life at school for young people who have a learning disability.
A conversation that underpins Enable Scotland's recent report: #IncludED in the Main?! 22 steps on the Journey to Inclusion.
The conversation continues
On Tuesday, 28th March those 800 plus voices will echo in the Scottish Parliament with MSPs debating the key themes #IncludED in the Main?! brings to the fore.
The presumption to mainstream was designed to deliver inclusion – it hasn’t. The presumption to mainstream has delivered a generation of young people who have a learning disability attending the same school as their wider peer group. But simply being present does not mean you are included.
This agenda has been crippled by a creeping reduction of specialism within Scottish education. With the number of additional support for learning teachers in Scotland falling, last year, to its lowest level since 2007 – we have a problem.
That specialist expertise is vital if we are ever to realise the ambition of true inclusion. Teachers tell us, it's not just additional support for pupils, we need additional support for teachers, indeed additional support for schools.
No child should be excluded from the opportunities available to their classmates and peers. To do so, on the basis of their disability, is in violation of the Equality Act 2010, and yet they are excluded.
Parents know about this, education staff know about this, children feel it. This begs the question, why is it still happening?
Despite the legislative framework being strong, the evidence suggests that there is an urgent need for robust guidance, training, and systemic accountability for inclusion.
A generation of trail blazers
With all that being said, Scottish education has come a long way for young people who have a learning disability. Just over 30 years ago some were still deemed to be uneducable.
And now we have a generation of young people, the majority of whom have been educated in a mainstream setting, since the implementation of the presumption to mainstream 17 years ago.
Those young people, their families, and the education staff who work with them are trail blazers! We need to listen to them and let them lead us towards next steps on the Journey to Inclusion.
Later this week we’ll share our thoughts on the next 22 steps on the Journey to Inclusion.
Jan Savage is director of campaigns and external affairs at Enable Scotland