#IncludED in the Main?!

Date: 13th December 2016
Category: Disabled children

Enable Scotland have published the findings from its large Scotland-wide survey on the 22 steps on the journey to inclusion for every pupil who has a learning disability.

#IncludED in the Main?! is ENABLE Scotland's national conversation about the reality of educational experiences for young people in Scotland who have learning disabilities. Informed by over 800 responses, #IncludED in the Main?! shows that inclusive education is still far from a reality for many young people who have learning disabilities. Too many are still excluded: from classroom and curriculum, by friends and peers, and from opportunities that make up the whole spectrum of school life.

Among its findings are:

- 80% of the education workforce say Scotland's education system isn't are not getting it right for every child,
- 98% of the education workforce say that initial teacher training does not prepare them for teaching young people who have additional support for learning needs, including learning disability,
- 62% of class or subject teachers said they've experienced stress and professional anxiety due to the thought of not having the right support to meet the needs of children and young people who have a learning disability,
- 60% of young people who have a learning disability told ENABLE Scotland they feel lonely at school, with 62.5% saying people do not understand them,
- 67% of young people who have a learning disability said they had been bullied,
- 46% of young people who have a learning disability said they don't get the same chances to take part in games in the playground as everyone else, with 23% not getting to go on school trips, and
- 40% of parents or carers said their child had been informally excluded from school, with 19% saying this was happening on a weekly basis.

A call for change

ENABLE Scotland's report calls on the Scottish Government to lead on "systemic change" of the education system, laying out 22 steps to change on the journey to inclusion based on the responses to its seven-month national conversation. These responses include:

- supporting current policy with a proper framework for Scotland to work within that really includes pupils who have learning disabilities.
- taking urgent action on visibility and accountability through the Schools Inspection system on the use of 'informal exclusions', whereby young people are being denied an education, and the lack of access to school trips or other activities for many young people with a disability.
- providing better support for teachers, including modules on supporting young people who have learning disabilities to be included in Initial Teacher Education and Headship programmes, as well as new CPD courses on learning disability.
- setting up a commission led by the Scottish Government and COSLA on the role of classroom assistants, whose numbers have been reduced in recent years.
- calling on all schools to embed conversations about learning disability into the curriculum.

Jan Savage, Executive Director of Campaigns and External Affairs at ENABLE Scotland, said:

"It's time to talk about the elephant in the room and confirm what most teachers, parents and children have said privately for a very long time. The presumption to mainstream policy was designed to deliver inclusion - it hasn't. It has resulted in more children being educated in the same classroom, which is an important first step. But 16 years on, we can also now see that it has taken specialist expertise out of the Scottish education system, and left young people who have learning disabilities side lined. Pupils have told us that they feel bullied, isolated and excluded. Parents have told us they feel frustration that the system is not working. And, importantly, teachers feel untrained, unsupported, and stressed. 800 people have spoken to ENABLE Scotland about how they feel. It's time to listen, take stock, and then act to ensure that we are getting it right for every child, in every classroom, in Scotland."

She added:

"Scotland is on a journey to inclusion. It's only 30 years ago that children who had a learning disability were deemed unable to be educated. We have come a long way. The introduction of the presumption to mainstream policy 16 years ago, which moved us towards including most pupils who have learning disabilities into mainstream schools, was a huge step. But since then, we have also seen a gradual and systematic reduction in all the specialist support that is needed to underpin that policy, like training, and access to specialist in-school support.

"The result of this lack of investment is the elephant in the room - a struggling system that is leaving pupils who have learning disabilities isolated and lonely, and teachers who feel that they are not able to support them. For the sake of the next generation of children who have learning disabilities and other support needs, it's time for Scotland to take action to address these failings. The recommendations in our Included in the Main report are the next steps on the journey to true inclusion."