Motion S5M-04016: Included in the Main?! (Graeme Dey MSP)
“That the Parliament recognises the campaign, Included in the Main?!, and the conclusion of a national conversation about the reality of educational experiences for children and young people who have learning disabilities, by ENABLE Scotland, which, it understands, is the largest voluntary organisation in the country for children and adults with learning disabilities and their families; notes that the national conversation looked at inclusive education and what it means for pupils who have learning disabilities; understands that the campaign has since engaged with over 800 young people, their parents and carers, and the education workforce, to talk about their experiences and consider what makes education truly inclusive; believes that the country has come a long way from when people with learning disabilities were viewed as “ineducable” but considers that inclusive education is still far from a reality for many and that this can have whole-life consequences; acknowledges that a report, 22 Steps on the Journey to Inclusion, has been published as a result of the national conversation, which makes 22 recommendations and acknowledges that inclusive education is not about school setting or placement, but rather that all children should receive an inclusive education in a setting that best meets their educational and developmental needs, and notes the view that it is time to talk about how to make that vision a reality in Angus South and across Scotland.”
I thank Graeme Dey for securing this debate to welcome the #IncludED in the Main?! campaign and to raise awareness of, and stimulate conversation about, children and young people with learning disabilities. I also want to recognise the work of Enable Scotland, which is a charitable organisation whose aim is to fight discrimination against young people who struggle with disabilities, and the inequality that they experience.
The Scottish Government is committed to delivering excellence and equality in Scottish education, especially to the many young people who have learning disabilities and are often unfairly excluded by friends and peers, and from the classrooms, opportunities and experiences that make up such a big part of childhood and school life. The delivery plan for Scottish education is committed to closing the attainment gap, to ensuring that we have a curriculum and to empowering our teachers, schools and communities for children and young people.
Children and young people’s education experience should open the doors to opportunities that enable children to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society. That includes children and young people who struggle with disabilities. However, inclusive education is still far from being a reality for many young people and children who are struggling.
Enable Scotland held a national conversation about the experiences of young people with learning disabilities. It received more than 800 responses over seven months from people across Scotland. Of the respondents, 60 per cent said that they felt lonely at school, only 49 per cent felt that they were achieving their full potential and 80 per cent of the education workforce believed that we are not getting it right for every child. As a result of those figures, the Scottish Government and Enable Scotland now work more closely together to revisit some of the policies on inclusive education. Enable has come up with 22 detailed recommendations on how to improve the lives of children with learning disabilities.
#IncludED in the Main?! set out to listen: it is now our turn to act. An initiative that welcomes inclusive education involves an array of complex partnerships and dialogues; students, parents, carers and teachers are all involved in creating supportive networks. The solutions and tactics should reflect the diversity of the set of actors who are involved, while creating support for individualised needs, in order to facilitate equal opportunities to participate in society.
The movement towards inclusion has spread to large-scale government. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child abolished segregated education that denies children with disabilities the right to be part of mainstream schooling. Even though that international recognition is a significant move in the right direction, Scotland will benefit from localised efforts to provide unique opportunities to place inclusive education firmly on the political agenda.
Fife Council, for example, aims to support children’s needs for additional support by working closely with their families. Fife Council’s priority is for all children to attend their local school and to be successful there, and not to isolate children from their peers. In my constituency of Kirkcaldy, the approach of the new Windmill community campus embodies such inclusion. Integrated into that campus—alongside Viewforth high school, council offices, community-use sport facilities and a public library—is Rosslyn school, which is a state-of-the-art facility that caters for children and young adults aged between 3 and 18 who have complex additional support needs.
The importance of collaborative teaching strategies cannot be overstated. In recognition of that, the Rosslyn school staff work closely with their mainstream colleagues. They do that not only to ensure access and achievement for all, but to enhance the opportunities for all pupils to develop and learn together.
In addition, every school in Fife has a learning support teacher who advises the class teacher on how best to assist children and young people who have additional support needs. The more choices, more chances agenda aims to increase the number of young people above the age of 16 in education, employment or training by encouraging and valuing informal learning in order to help to develop social and employability skills. In addition, active schools co-ordinators offer all children and young people the opportunities and motivation to adopt active healthy lifestyles, now and into adulthood. Such services are also extended to further education; for example, Fife College’s equality, diversity and inclusion team aims to develop skills, confidence, motivation, independence and expertise. Each Fife College campus provides one-to-one support.
Inclusion is an on-going process: it is not a fixed state. Wherever learning takes place, all children deserve to be educated together, despite barriers and requirements for additional support. In conclusion, Presiding Officer, I say that I believe that our country values our diverse communities. It is important to promote inclusive learning and education, because communities are formed at school, where young people learn, play and grow together, and learn to live alongside each other.
Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report.