Close the gap for learning disabled students


Jan Savage says the education needs of learning disabled pupils are not being met and are often forgotten

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21st April 2016 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

Education is a hot topic in the pre-election debate, with manifesto promises from across the political spectrum. But one section of society is in danger of becoming Scotland’s forgotten constituents.

Young people with learning disabilities are too often missed out of the education debate, much like they are too often excluded from the full spectrum of opportunities that make up school life in Scotland and from the political decisions that affect them.

We’d like to see some important statistics leading the debate about education. For example, sadly, more than 70% of young people with learning disabilities in school said they don’t get enough help and time from teachers and 94% of parents feel schools don’t have enough resources to work with young people who have learning disabilities.

Jan Savage

Jan Savage

Promises to close the attainment gap shouldn’t only focus on rich and poor, it must equally focus on those who need more support

And almost half of young people with learning disabilities have been informally excluded from school, 17% on a weekly basis. These statistics alone aren’t the problem, there’s the added issue of a large discrepancy between the reasons for exclusion given by schools and the belief of parents that it happened because their child wasn’t getting the support they need.

Sadly this is the picture of life for too many young people with learning disabilities. A picture is underpinned by the fact that Additional Support Needs staff in Scottish schools have been cut by 10% since 2010.

Promises to close the attainment gap shouldn’t only focus on rich and poor, it must equally focus on those who need more support, and conversations about education reform should consider how Scotland can deliver a truly inclusive education system.

This could mean real change for youngsters like 13-year-old Alex who feels excluded and isolated in his mainstream high-school, already having been prevented from representing his school in football competitions and formally excluded. Alex has autism, ADHD and a hearing impairment. His mum, whose mental health has suffered due to the strains of dealing with the situation, says a lack of support from the school is the root of the problem.

Alex’s reality is mirrored by many others across Scotland and the situation cannot be ignored. Enable Scotland is calling on political parties to #BeTheChange for young people who have learning disabilities.

Now is the time to talk about education for people who have learning disabilities. And this conversation should be led by the voices of experience: young people who have learning disabilities, their families and professionals that work with them. That’s what Enable Scotland’s national conversation – Included in the Main – seeks to achieve. The challenge across the political spectrum is who will listen and #BeTheChange for this generation of forgotten constituents?

Jan Savage is executive director of campaigns and external affairs at Enable Scotland