Warnock’s brief history of special schools in Scotland

Just to continue with marking the publication of the Warnock report in May 1978. Its first chapter provided the history of segregated and special schools in the UK from the 18thcentury.  I have extracted the Scottish references for a brief history of segregated education in Scotland from the perspective of Deaf and disabled provision. It’s a cut and paste job with a couple of additions but I‘ve saved you doing it!

18thcentury – The first school for the DEAF in Great Britain was started by Thomas Braidwood in Edinburgh in the early 1760s. Mr Braidwood’s Academy for the Deaf and Dumb, as it was called, took a handful of selected paying pupils to be taught to speak and read.   By 1870 a further six schools had been founded, including the first in Wales at Aberystwyth (1847) and Donaldson’s Hospital (now Donaldson’s School) in Edinburgh. (Donaldson’s sold their building in Edinburgh and moved out to Linlithgow in 2008.) These early institutions for the deaf; no less than those for the blind, were protective places, with little or no contact with the outside world. The education that they provided was limited and subordinated to training. Many of their inmates failed to find employment on leaving and had recourse to begging.

The Asylum for the Industrious Blind at Edinburgh was opened in 1793. Such institutions were solely concerned to provide vocational training for future employment, and relied upon the profits from their workshops.

19thcentury – In Scotland, the first establishment for the education of “imbeciles” was set up at Baldovan in Dundee in 1852 and later became Strathmartine Hospital. An institution for “defectives” was founded later in Edinburgh: it transferred to a site in Larbert in 1863 and is today the Royal Scottish National Hospital. The Lunacy (Scotland) Act of 1862 recognised the needs of the mentally handicapped and authorised the granting of licences to charitable institutions established for the care and training of imbecile children.

The Forster Education Act of 1870 (and the corresponding Education (Scotland) Act of 1872) established school boards to provide elementary education in those areas where there were insufficient places in voluntary schools. The Acts did not specifically include disabled children among those for whom provision was to be made, but in 1874 the London School Board established a class for the DEAF at a public elementary school and later began the training of teachers.

It was equally so with the BLIND. Two years after the Scottish Act 50 blind children were being taught in ordinary classes in Scottish schools. (Are we able to say that inclusive practices have a history of at least 140 years for the visually impaired being included in their local schools in Scotland?)

Special educational provision for PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY HANDICAPPED children was even slower off the mark. Those who attended elementary schools profited as best they could from the ordinary teaching. The more severely handicapped received care and sometimes education in institutions.

In Glasgow in 1874, East Park was founded after the formation of “The Association for Visiting and Aiding the Permanently Infirm and Imbecile Children”. In 1874 children were admitted with paralysis, hip, spine and knee joint diseases with rickets being a widespread problem. The East Park cottage Home for Infirm Children was effectively a care institution managed by a superintendent and whose staff wore nursing uniforms.

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 13.18.26.jpg

A Royal Commission on the Blind and Deaf was constituted in 1886 and reported in 1889.  Legislation quickly followed for Scotland in the Education of Blind and Deaf Mute Children (Scotland) Act of 1890, but three years elapsed before England and Wales were similarly covered by the Elementary Education (Blind and Deaf Children) Act of 1893. The Act required school authorities* to make provision, in their own or other schools, for the education of blind and deaf children resident in their area who were not otherwise receiving suitable elementary education.  The new Act meant that all blind or deaf children would in future be sent to school as of right.

20thcentury- In Scotland, the Education of Defective Children (Scotland) Act of 1906 empowered school boards to make provision to special schools or classes for the education of defective children between the ages of five and 16, whilst the Mental Deficiency (Scotland) Act of 1913 required school boards to ascertain children in their area who were defective, and those who were considered incapable of benefiting from instruction in special schools became the responsibility of parish councils for placement in an institution. By 1939 the number of mentally defective children on the roll of special schools and classes had reached 4,871.

However, since maladjustment was not officially recognised as a form of handicap calling for special education, practically no provision was made by authorities for these pupils before 1944, although some authorities paid for children to attend voluntary homes.

In Scotland, the Education (Scotland) Act 1945 repeated much of the content of the Education Act 1944, but with certain important differences. The duty of education authorities to ascertain which children required special educational treatment applied to children from the age of five.

The Handicapped Pupils and School Health Service Regulations 1945 defined 11 categories of pupils: blind, partially sighted, deaf, partially deaf, delicate, diabetic, educationally subnormal, epileptic, maladjusted, physically handicapped and those with speech defects. Maladjustment and speech defects were entirely new categories. Partial blindness and partial deafness were extensions of existing categories, whilst delicate and diabetic children had previously been treated as physically handicapped. The categories (though not the detailed definitions) have remained unchanged since 1944 except that in 1953 diabetic children ceased to form a separate category and have since then been included with the delicate. The regulations prescribed that blind, deaf, epileptic, physically handicapped and aphasic children were seriously disabled and must be educated in special schools. Children with other disabilities might attend ordinary schools if adequate provision for them was available.

In Scotland an attempt was made to bring together expert opinion on all forms of handicap. In 1947 the Secretary of State remitted to the Advisory Council in Scotland the task of reviewing the provision made for the primary and secondary education of pupils suffering from disability of mind or body or from maladjustment due to social handicaps. The Council produced between 1950 and 1952 seven reports which were valuable guides to education authorities on the provision for different handicaps, although their predictions of future need have not all stood the test of time. For example, it was thought that special provision should be made for 20,000 physically handicapped pupils, whereas the number of these children in special schools in 1976 was only 1,076: conversely the Council’s estimate that four residential child guidance clinics would suffice to meet the needs of all children maladjusted because of social handicap has proved to be hopelessly inadequate.

The Scottish Education Department Circular No 300  (The Education of Handicapped Pupils: The Reports of the Advisory Council (21 March 1955).

The titles of the Reports were as follows:

Pupils who are Defective in Hearing (Cmd 7866)

Pupils who are Defective in Vision (Cmd 7885)

Visual and Aunt Aids (Cmd 8102)

Pupils with Physical Disabilities (Cmd 8211)

Pupils with Mental or Educational Disabilities (Cmd 8401)

Pupils handicapped by Speech Disorders (Cmd 8426)

Pupils who are Maladjusted because of Social Handicap (Cmd 8428)

in presenting these reports they placed special education within the mainstream of primary and secondary education.

“Special educational treatment should not be thought of mainly in terms of the provision on a large scale of separate schools for handicapped children…. It is recognised that there must continue to be situations where it is essential in the children’s interest that those who are handicapped must be separated from those who are not. Nevertheless as medical knowledge increases and as general school conditions improve it should be possible for an increasing proportion of pupils who require special educational treatment to be educated along with their contemporaries in ordinary schools. Special educational treatment should, indeed, be regarded simply as a well-defined arrangement within the ordinary educational system to provide for the handicapped child the individual attention that he particularly needs.”

In the year prior to the issue of Circular No 300 Scottish regulations were made laying down definitions of the nine statutory categories of handicap. Delicate and diabetic children were not included as they were in England and Wales. These Regulations, together with the 1956 Schools Code, which prescribed maximum class sizes for the various categories of handicap, ensured for handicapped children in Scotland the benefit of favourable pupil-teacher ratios.

In Scotland education authorities became responsible in 1947 for the education of children who were described as “ineducable but trainable”. Those children were placed in junior occupational centres and trained by instructors, but following the Report of the Melville Committeeand subsequent provisions in the Education (Mentally Handicapped Children) (Scotland) Act 1974 the centres were re-named schools, and teachers were appointed in addition to the instructors. The 1974 Act also gave education authorities responsibility for the education of children who had previously been described as “ineducable and untrainable”.

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 13.17.54.jpg

In Scotland all the functions of the former approved schools, including the provision of education, were transferred in 1971 to local authority social work departments under the terms of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, and these institutions are now known as List D schools.

In Scotland the 1960s had seen some confusion over the procedures for the assessment of handicapped children. Working parties examined the assessment of four groups of handicapped children: mentally handicapped, visually handicapped, maladjusted and hearing impaired. As a result major procedural changes were included in the Education (Scotland) Act 1969. The Act redefined special education in terms which excluded the concept of a fixed disability of mind or of body.  It recognised the importance of early discovery by abolishing the minimum age at which a child could be ascertained by an education authority and established that the decision to ascertain a child was not exclusively a medical one. It required that in every case reports of psychological as well as medical examinations should be considered, with, wherever possible, the views of the child’s parents and those of his teacher. It also recognised the widely held view that assessment is a continuing process.

In Scotland, the same theme lay behind the report of the McCann Committee on the secondary education of physically handicapped children.  (The  Secondary Education of Physically Handicapped Children in Scotland. Report of the Committee appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland (HMSO, 1975). ) The Committee’s report, whilst recognising that some physically handicapped children would require education in special schools, envisaged an ever increasing number of them being educated in ordinary schools.

The extent of special educational need is very difficult to assess. Some indication is given by the figures for the children ascertained as requiring special education IN THE TRADITIONAL SENSE OF SEPARATE SPECIAL PROVISION.  In Scotland 15,119 children or 1.4% of the school population were receiving separate special educational provision in the session 1976-77. However, this scale on which children are ascertained as being in need of special education varies widely from one authority to another.

In Scotland in the 1975-76 session the prevalence of children receiving special education ranged from 50 per 10,000 of the school population in a rural region to over 200 in a region with a large conurbation. Four out of nine regions were within a range 10% above or below the national average of 120.Some of the variations between authorities may reflect variations in local policy and the strength of assessment services, but they also suggest a relationship between the rate of ascertainment and the availability of special provision. It is to be noted that this level is approximately the same in 2018 as in 1976!

The definition of special education in the Education (Scotland) Act 1969, although it has the merit of using terms which clearly apply to children with emotional or behavioural disorders as well as those with physical or intellectual disabilities, is similarly negative in tone: “education by special methods appropriate to the requirements of pupils whose physical, intellectual, emotional or social development cannot, in the opinion of the education authority, be adequately promoted by ordinary methods of education”. Such a definition conveys nothing of the qualities or features which make special education “special”.

That’s you nearly up to date. After Warnock, in Scotland there were a range of reports on good practice culminating in the Inspectorate review of  special schools in 2002.

40 years on: new improved labels

Forty years ago this month the Warnock Report was published. Though now eponymous with Mary Warnock it was entitled “Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People” and was published four (FOUR) years after being set up by Margaret Thatcher. “Warnock” made its mark, not the least in its noting

“the particular expression of a widely held and still growing conviction that, so for as is humanly possible, handicapped people should share the opportunities for self- fulfilment enjoyed by other people”

As the good doctor in Star Trek might say “it’s inclusion Jim but not as we know it.”

Warnock noted the long-standing policy that

“no child should be sent to a special school who can be satisfactorily educated in an ordinary one”

Warnock decided against engaging in debates about the 2% in special schools to consider the 20% of the population that at any time should be considered as having “special educational needs” and be described as children with learning difficulties.

Warnock considered three types of integration  – locational, social and functional.  Functional integration built upon the other two is about joint participation in educational programmes. It was described as a form of association  “where children with special needs join, part-time or full-time, the regular classes of the school, and make a full contribution to the activity of the school.”

From above the Warnock Report was at the foothills of  inclusive education and was more about what was being left behind rather than clarity about rights of disabled children, universal design of provision or personalising learning and support to take account of difference.

Its strength today was its comprehensive history of previous developments where we came from rather than a vision for the future  of the journey towards successful inclusive education for all.   My next blog looks to pull together “A brief history of special education in Scotland” will be drawn from Warnock.

However just to mark the watershed approach of Warnock in terms of categrisation and us eof labels. The report made that disctivtion about 20% having special educational needs nad described as having leanirng difficutlies in place of the following system of categories in Scotlnad

In Scotland the categories of pupils requiring special educational treatment are defined in the Special Educational Treatment (Scotland) Regulations, 1954 as follows:

“(1) deaf pupils, that is to say pupils who, because of defective hearing, are without naturally acquired speech or language;

(2) partially deaf pupils, that is to say pupils whose sense of hearing is defective but who possess naturally acquired speech or language;

(3) blind pupils, that is to say pupils who have no sense of sight or whose sense of sight is, or is likely to become, so defective as to be of no practical value for reading or writing;

(4) partially sighted pupils, that is to say pupils whose sense of sight is, or is likely to become, defective but is, and is likely to remain, of practical value for reading or writing;

(5) mentally handicapped pupils, that is to say pupils who have little natural ability;

(6) epileptic pupils, that is to say pupils who suffer from severe or frequent epileptic seizures or who, by reason of epilepsy, behave in such a way as to make it inexpedient that they should be associated with other children;

(7) pupils suffering from speech defect, that is to say pupils who suffer from defect or lack of speech not due to deafness or mental handicap;

(8) maladjusted pupils, that is to say pupils who suffer from emotional instability or psychological disturbance;

(9) physically handicapped pupils, that is to say pupils who suffer from a physical disability which is, or is likely to be, permanent or protracted and which does not bring them within any of the foregoing categories.”

So much for the medical model!  Some authorities still use such categorisation for their provision. We still talk up children’s difficulties rather than seek the system change necessary to meet their needs. Warnock understood that implicitly it was about individual children. The report did not talk about the quality of provision other than realising that  high quality planning was necessary.  Ending one set of levels has only generated the use of the  use of the label of ASN in Scotland (another blog to follow)

5 things to consider for inclusive education in 2018

Another year over, and a new one just begun –- so what should we be doing this year? In 2018, there is the need to close the gap between international visions of inclusive societies and the inclusive practice in Scottish education. The status quo is not an option. In 2016 and 2017, the world moved on, while Scotland did not progress. We can consider five things to consider to secure inclusive education in Scotland.

Number 1 Take account of the UN’s General Comment no. 4

Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 11.51.58

In 2016 the United Nations Committee on the Right of Persons with Disabilities published their General Comment no. 4. It opened with acknowledgement of progress in education for those with disabilities. They said that “recognition of inclusion as the key to achieving the right to education has strengthened over the past 30 years”. They then went on to say

“Many millions of persons with disabilities continue to be denied a right to education, and for many more, education is available only in settings where they are isolated from their peers and receive an inferior quality of provision.”

These challenges described as profound as less so in Scotland in terms of scale. Yet in Scotland the following would be true : –

“A few thousand children and young people with disabilities are denied a right to a high quality full-time education and for thousands more in Scotland, education is only available in settings where they are isolated from their peers and receive an inferior quality of provision.”

According to ENABLE, in Scottish schools  the highest levels of dissatisfaction expressed by young people with additional support needs occurs in special schools, roughly about 60% feel they are not well-supported.

In Scotland inclusive education is something about children with support needs being mainstreamed into schools, where as, across the globe, systems are adopting a broad approach. The UN sets out a view that

“Inclusive education is central to achieving high quality education for all learners, including those with disabilities, and for the development of inclusive, peaceful and fair societies. Furthermore, there is a powerful educational, social, and economic case to be made.”

We need to have that kind of vision using the General Comment’s framework to implement it.

Number 2 Address UN concerns about Scottish inclusive education

Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 11.52.11

In September 2017, the UK was criticised for its lack of understanding of “adapting to and applying the human rights model of disability and its evolving concept of disability”. It is not clear that this holds true for Scottish Government. However, concerns and recommendations were made for devolved governments to take forward article 24 – the right of disabled children to inclusive education together with Sustainable Development Goal 4.

The UN recommended that Scotland develops a comprehensive and coordinated legislative and policy framework for inclusive education, and a timeframe to ensure that mainstream schools foster real inclusion of children with disabilities and they should adopt and implement a coherent strategy, financed with concrete timelines and measurable goals, on increasing and improving inclusive education.

The UN went on to say that the strategy must ensure the implementation of laws and regulations improving the extent and quality of inclusive education in classrooms, setup initiatives raising awareness about and support to inclusive education among parents of children with disabilities; and provide sufficient, relevant data on the number of students both in inclusive and segregated education disaggregated by impairment, age, sex and ethnic background, and further provide data on the outcome of the education reflecting the capabilities of the students.

Number 3 Link improvements in inclusive education to SDG 4.5

Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 11.52.31

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are not designed for “third world” or “developing countries” yet are universal and global goals to be realised by all.  SDG 4 which was mentioned in the Concluding Observations is the education SDG, It aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030.  Surely an achievable target for Scottish education which has many positives in inclusive practices. Target 4.5 is the Equity target and again is within reach of the Scottish education system.

Number 4 Pick up on the trends in Europe

Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 11.52.17

The recent publication in 2017 from the European Parliament “Inclusive education for learners with disabilities” highlights the work of the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education and identifies several trends in inclusive education across Europe. These include trends inclusive education being rooted in the development of personalised learning and flexible teaching, capacity building mechanisms, a preventative approach and effective governance and accountability. The report concludes with comments from the European Agency, the major agency in inclusive education across Europe, and always worth a consideration for its comprehensive guidance and practical advice

“The ultimate vision for inclusive education systems is to ensure that all learners of any age are provided with meaningful, high-quality educational opportunities in their local community, alongside their friends and peers”

Number 5 Evaluate progress using UNESCO up-to-date advice and guidance

Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 11.52.39

In 2017,  Florence Mignon at UNESCO working with Mel Ainscow published a guide and helpful resource for countries to help ensuring in inclusion and equity. UNESCO wanted the guide to support government education policy-makers, practitioners and key stakeholders in their efforts to develop and implement inclusive policies, programmes and practices that meet the needs of all learners.

UNESCO were confident this Guide for Ensuring Inclusion and Equity in Education will serve as a resource for countries and will contribute to accelerating efforts worldwide towards inclusive education. At present it is unclear how this resource will be utilised in Scotland.   Two points for consideration would be the advice that integrating approaches to inclusion and equity means

  • Valuing the presence, participation and achievement of all learners, regardless of their contexts and personal characteristics.
  • Recognizing the benefits of student diversity, and how to live with, and learn from, difference.

We cannot learn from difference with segregated special schooling.

The guide provides key features to measure progress in inclusion and equity many of which Scotland is working well towards others where we are a bit further behind. These key features are well worth paying attention to in considering inclusion and equity. An area where we have made little progress is the key feature that states “There is a clear role for special provision, such as special schools and units, in promoting inclusion and equity in education.”   The guide explains this new role is for special schools and units to “play a vital role by acting as resource centres for supporting regular schools as they seek to become more inclusive”. Special schools not as placement but as resource. Could it happen in Scotland in 2018 and deliver on the rights of disabled children to an inclusive education with their peers in their local school? It will happen, if we want it!

Pedagogy of the Diverse

Change the system

Children come to our schooling systems with their differences. We know this. We still don’t fully know how to handle their differences. We still expect children and young people to fit the system. Our education systems are still too heavily focussed on schooling rather than learning. Everyone can learn, not everyone gets schooled. Inclusive learning would mean a locally based learning environment, lets call it a school, being open to all, designed to meet the needs of whoever walks or wheels up to the door.

The above graphic isn’t even where we are in Scotland in terms of a debate on inclusive education. The squares at the school door are still deciding that different blobs need to change in order to pass through the door to schooling.

Schooling is still too often about excluding, separating and segregating and within schools about sorting out and streaming. JK Rowling had it best with her sorting hat

“For I’m the Hogwarts sorting Hat

And I can cap them all.

There’s nothing hidden in your head

The Sorting Hat can’t see

So try me on and I will tell you

Where you ought to be.”

Too many schools and starting from before 5 years of age, sort out the children into high and low ability top and bottom sets and academic and non-academic learners. In Scotland the debate is moving away from a national education system marked out by being universal, comprehensive and accessible by all – an inclusive system – towards one reinforcing segregated, autonomous and selection processes.

Yet across the world now agencies and movements of the oppressed are making great steps with progressive inclusion. From the United Nations and its international agencies, the European Commission backed by the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education towards movements of the marginalised are acclaiming change.

In 2015 in Europe groups of disabled young people came together to take action. They viewed inclusive education as a human rights issue and placed key concepts, such as normality, tolerance, respect and citizenship, at the centre of their discussions. Their simple five point manifesto:

  1. Everything about us, with us
  2. Barrier-free schools
  3. Breaking down stereotypes
  4. Diversity is the mix, inclusion is what makes the mix work
  5. Becoming full citizens

To match these points we need to consider a new pedagogy, a pedagogy of the diverse. Such an approach to a range of teaching and learning methods would break down the need for stratification and segregation based on illogical and outmoded notions of “age, aptitude and ability” but take account of what learners bring to school their experiences and background – social class, gender, religion and belief, ethnic minority, disability, sexual orientation, age, pregnancy.   Such an approach has more of the 21st century about it and openly takes account of background rather than have “hidden values” that lead to support for schooling processes that have no evidence of positive outcomes such as setting. It would build in flexibility through principles already in place such as relevance and personalising learning and support rather than sorting.

It would mean schools would be responsive and charged with meeting the needs each individual and operate through designing personalised pathways through the schooling process on one site in one school – an inclusive learning environment, comprehensive and meeting the needs of all. There would be sectoral changes such as an end to selective schooling, fee-paying schooling and segregated schooling and investment in inclusion that offers pastoral support, learning support and personal support for inclusive leanring. Simples really!


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone JK Rowling 1997

‘Inclusive Education–Take Action!’ November 2015




Faster than the speed of words

Equality equity

Visuals travel faster than the speed of words and even without a thousand words, images show their worth in communicating ideas.

The above image of the young people peering over fences at a baseball game has been given great a currency over the past few years.

You can read about how it came about in December 2012 by Craig Froehle. He originally created the  graphic to make the point between equality of opportunity and equality in outcomes in a debate with a conservative during USA 2012 election.   He modestly describes his creative process as:

“So, I grabbed a public photo of Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, a stock photo of a crate, clip art of a fence, and then spent a half-hour or so in Powerpoint concocting an image”

His graphic must have been used in thousands of presentations as a simple and effective way to push the debate in politics or social services or education towards fairness rather than opportunity.

In the first panel of the graphic all the young people have the opportunity to look at the ball game but not everyone has a successful outcome. The second panel then displays a fairer outcome. Someone once said something about   “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” and the image has something of that.

Of course I have to admit I was one of those young people outside the fence in my youth. On occasion my brothers trying to see the game at a junior football ground in the West of Scotland. We never achieved the equitable outcome because usually we found a way to sneak in by climbing over the fence.

There is another website (Cultural Organizing) that offers a critique of the graphic in its various forms describing it as perfect example of deficit thinking. (By the way they describe the removing of the fence to get in for free as a “creative and subversive” response – we called it duking in).

A final website lets you design your own third and even fourth panel.   It again looks at some different versions and lets you design a fourth box (the 4th box) for the cartoon.

Then there is the short youtube version for younger children called Fairness set away from sports fields. Again three children this time picking apples from a tree and sharing boxes to stand on. There may well be a feature film coming some time soon.

In education terms many schools and teachers are keen to assert that they treat everyone the same. People on the first box never readily give up that privilege they feel they deserve with that resource. Whether you view that first box as private schooling, the over emphasis and weighting towards gaining entry to University and streamed or set classes. All of those “crates” are supports that reinforce inequity and not readily yielded.

More debate and discussion about equitable outcomes needs to consider the second panel and celebrate ways that give the support to those that need it, children and young people from working class backgrounds, care experienced young people and those with disabilities. It also requires decisions from the first panel about which “crates” need reallocated.

Version 3 To each according to their needs   4 panel 7  

Disability Rights are Human Rights

human rights

“Grave and systemic”… “deep concerns”… “most challenging”


Last week the performance of the UK government and the jurisdictions of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales were part of a report from the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD). “Grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights” were raised as part of “deep concerns” by the UN’s UK Rapporteur who described the engagement with the UK Government as “the most challenging exercise in the history of the Committee.” So far, so bad!

In terms of the right to inclusive education the world has moved on.   In the eyes of the UN, within Scotland and the UK a change in approach was needed “without further delay”. From the UN’s perspective the education jurisdictions within the UK have failed to understand or implement the human rights model of disability. For some children, education is available only in settings where they are isolated from their peers and receive an inferior quality of provision. The Governments have avoided their obligation to move towards full realisation of article 24 of UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. In their General Comment No.4 in 2026, the UNCRPD stated, “This is not compatible with sustaining two systems of education: mainstream and special/segregated education systems.”

In August 2017, the Committee flagged up four concerns with the position across the UK education systems. These were

  1. persistence of segregated education through special schools
  2. increasing numbers of children and young people with disabilities in segregated education
  3. an education system not geared to high-quality inclusive education
  4. education and training of teachers does not reflect the needs of inclusive education

Not all of these are “bang-on” criticisms of Scottish education yet some of the fundamental concerns remain unanswered at the present time.

Concern the first is indeed relevant, there continues to persist segregated education through special schools. However, in the decade since UNCRPD the numbers of special schools under local authority control have declined. In 2006, there were 190 while by 2016 there were now 141. Though, to counter that, there has been an increase in independent special schools. Of course this is not consistent across 32 education authorities as at least seven authorities have no segregated education through special schools.

Concern the second is not relevant for Scotland. Yay! In Scotland numbers of children and young people in special schools were not increasing over the decade, they were very stable until last year. In 2006, 6975 children and young people were enrolled in segregated education by special schools and by 2016 this number had decreased to 6735.

Third concern is on balance an accurate one.   The system is not geared to respond to the requirements for high-quality inclusive education. Our laws include exceptions whereby inclusive education can be neglected. The UN states that we need not exceptions to mainstreaming but laws that ensure “the implementation of laws, decrees, and regulations improving the extent and quality of inclusive education across the system.“ This is the clearest example of the world moving on. In 2000 Scotland was at the forefront with a mainstreaming push but it has not led to ending segregated education by special schools. Across Europe new roles for special schools are being developed and implemented in support of inclusive education. Too few such schools in Scotland take on such roles as resource centres or support services in support of inclusive education in local schools. Of course there are large numbers of local schools across Scotland offering models of good practice in inclusive education based on a human rights approach tackling the challenges described by the UN.

Fourth concern plays as accurate too for Scotland, particularly in terms of ongoing education of teachers. Across Scottish Government, Education Scotland, education authorities more can continue to be done to support and assert children’s rights to inclusive education and further reduce any need for segregated education by special schools.

Dear reader, you will struggle to find mention of UNCRPD and its assertions on the right to inclusive education, not only across Scottish education but Scottish public policy. Organisations such as diverse as Equality and Human Rights Committee, the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Enable, Govan Law Centre do not seem to value, recognise or concern themselves with a disabled child’s right to inclusive education as set out by the United Nations. None of them share the concerns of the United Nations regarding inclusive education in the Scotland.

Globally, now, UNESCO provides guidance on inclusion and equity and Europe forges ahead in developing inclusive education with the work of the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. Scotland is now falling behind in regard to inclusive education. This blog focused on the committee’s concerns. The next blog concerns its recommendations and seeks to apply them to the Scottish context.



United Nations Committee on the Rights of Disabled People General Comment No. 4 (2014)

UNESCO Sustainable Development Goal 4 targets 4.5 and 4.8



Finding the joy in work

isolation and detention

Part of the luxury of being retired from full-time employment is gazing at job vacancies in a very disinterested fashion. “Can’t see me doing that or that or even that” is the general response whenever any jobs and all other modes of gainful employment appear before my eyes.  However, the job above came at me through my twitter feed and piqued my interest.  What a role! Director of Isolations and Detentions: I mean, how much fun is that job going to be?  If I were to do it, definitely, it would be important to ensure there was high quality isolation and detention.

In Scotland, so far we have moved away from such approaches. We have recognised that building relationships is a more successful way to sustain those positive learning environments or as many use to call them – schools. As a result our young people do demonstrate those four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence. No more so than when they participated in the referendum about the future of Scotland with the extended franchise to 16 and 17 year olds.   We have moved on.

We stopped belting children and young people in schools in 1982. To be fully accurate we stopped belting working class boys who were the primary (and secondary) recipients of this reminder for good behaviour.  Identity matters not just in attainment gaps.  The survey below was conducted in a survey of school leavers in 1977. It is quite marked who was being belted.

Tell Them From MeSince then we have transformed our schools from punishment regimes to more supportive, inclusive spaces where positive relationships are at the heart of practice. Accompanying this transition has been a shift in the well being of young people and following that improvement their behaviour and relationships with others.

Such improvement has been achieved through better understanding of the pressures on teenagers, the developments in neuroscience and adolescents and progress with the climate and relationships in schools as well as nurturing ethos and settings in schools.

The OECD (2015) noted the positive attitudes towards schools from young people in Scotland.

Positive attitudes and connections

Scottish students hold relatively positive attitudes towards schools and what it has given them compared with their peers across OECD countries as a whole. Around 8 out of 10 students said they did not agree that school had done little to prepare them for life (well above the OECD average), and more than 9 in 10 did not agree that school had been a waste of time.

At least three in four Scottish students surveyed answered positively when asked whether they get along with their teachers, whether teachers take students seriously, and whether teachers are a source of support. More held positive perceptions of teacher-student relationships in 2012 than in 2003.

Young people in Scotland report high life satisfaction. Most Scottish adolescents (87%) said that they were highly satisfied with their lives, this being largely stable since 2002.”

More than that though the OECD recognised more positive behaviour among young people in Scotland

“School and risk behaviour improving in Scotland

The proportion of 15-year-olds who reported drinking alcohol on a weekly basis dropped sharply from 43% in 2002 to 14% in 2014. Nearly a quarter of Scottish 15-year- olds were smokers in 2002 but this had dropped to 14% in 2014. Over two-thirds of Scottish teenagers judge that their school provides them with advice and support regarding smoking, alcohol consumption and drug use.

Staff assessments of behaviour in Scottish schools have been high since the mid- 2000s; with low-level and serious disruptive behaviour both considered to be in decline. Even so, unauthorised absenteeism is above the OECD average in Scotland.”

As Scotland has moved away from punishment regimes in schools, the number of children and young people subject to exclusion from learning has significantly decreased. In 2006/07 there were 44,794 exclusions and by 2014/15 this had decreased to 18,430, a fall of about 60%.   It’s unlikely to be a story appearing soon in a mass media outlet about working class boys no longer needing to be hit neither will we hear too often that our young people are more responsible citizens than adults, more confident individuals, better at effectively contributing and learning more successfully in so many ways than the adults who lecture them.

There is evidence of a better behaved generation than ever. The Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice in their “Youth Justice in Scotland” notes the significant decline in youth crime.

“Since 2006-07 there have been falls in those convicted of an offence in court across all age groups, although the change is more marked in the youth population (under 18) compared to the adult population (18 and over), as shown in Figures 7 and 8 (Scottish Government, 2013a). In addition, it is notable that, in the same time period, the number of under 16s with a charge proven in court has fallen by almost three-quarters (74%), which meant that there were only 34 young people aged under 16 who were prosecuted and convicted by a court in 2012/13.”

It is further noted that

“… almost 90% of young people in custody in 2013 reported that they had been excluded from school. One 17-year-old young man in Polmont said ‘People like us get excluded and end up in Polmont’.“

Rather than isolating and detaining our kids we need to engage better with them, have higher expectations of their behaviour and learning while respecting their rights and supporting them to exercise their rights as responsible citizens. More innovation in our curriculum and wider work across councils to provide more tailored pathways to realise potential rather than be detained and stare at a wall all day by yourself.

Incidentally as we, in Scottish education, move to academy trust style of clusters of schools outwith local council control, there would be nothing to stop such posts appearing in Scotland sometime soon. Again, I’m not interested.

Some references

Educational exclusion and inclusion – Common themes from the Improving Life Chances Group http://www.cycj.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Education-Exclusion-and-Inclusion-1.pdf

Exclusions dataset 2014/15



Out of site, out of mind?


Tell Them from Me, Gow and McPherson Aberdeen university Press (1980)

Youth Justice in Scotland: Fixed in the past or fit for the future? Lightowler et al, CYCJ, 2014






The support saga: a data story

Once upon a time there were a group of wise people who thought all was not well in the world of education.   One day, in 1978, they came together and said some of our children in our schools will require some support at some time. They said that every fifth child in a village, town or city would require support.

A long, long time after the wise people had reported all that they found, a committee of the parliament sat in Edinburgh town. They were worried about an exponential growth in the numbers of boys and girls throughout all the land needing additional support. So they listened to some people and then they listened to some more. But they never thought to look back at the words of the group of wise people from the century before.   For there had been no epidemic of support needs in recent years. All across the hills and lochs of the country, all that had happened was teachers got better at completing a census about support.

In the land of the Scots every year before the leaves shaded from green to brown, the leader in each and every school was commanded to fill out the census of the ScotXed.   Some of the leaders did not like to do this at all, so they got some of their helpers to fill out every box as ordered by the ScotXeders. The saga of the census which took place annually, each and every year told the story who got what in support for learning. The numbers told a new story, a happy one.

The story of the numbers was this: each August about 53,000 children start school and then by the end of June, roughly 53,000 will leave school education. Overall, there will be about 679,000 in Scottish schools. Roundabout the year 2011, teachers were asked to record more information about who got what in terms of additional support and to do that for the next five years.

For half a decade, the teachers in schools got better and better at counting the children with support needs and reached the 1 in 5 level that the wise people had said way back in the last century.

Over the 5 year period of reporting, schools identified more and more of the children and young people getting more and more support. In 2011 this number was 98,523 and by 2015 the count was now 153,190 children and young people across Scotland.   It was only that people (teachers people) had become more sensitive to who needed support and year on year for five years they got better at reporting and recording the information. This was indeed a good thing.

It wasn’t just a matter of that one number, there were lots of numbers. These numbers told a number of different tales in the saga of support.

They told a story of more and more plans for the children in the schools. Over the years of better counting, the total number of plans increased from 49,787 in 2011 to 60,119 plans in 2015. More plans must be a good thing, surely! But it wasn’t just the number of plans, there had been a big change in the types of plans. Down went the number of plans called IEPs, down went plans called CSPs and up and up went the number called child’s plans.  Not many people knew this.

The numbers of IEPs reported decreased from 42,819 in 2011 to 37,168 in 2015. In this time the number of co-ordinated support plans decreased from 3,617 to 2,716.

While somewhat remarkably the number of child’s plans grew, grew, and grew from 3,351 to 20,235. This may well be a very good thing as an IEP usually concerns itself with education while a plan of the child is a more holistic document.

“Plans! Plans! What good are plans?” I hear you say. Plans don’t amount to much unless there are people there in place to not only carry them out but to make sure its good quality support.

In terms of the types of support given to children needing support there were five years of numbers too.

The identified number of children in schools receiving support from specialist learning support teachers had risen from 50,789 in 2011 to 85,471 in 2015. Numbers receiving support from other support for learning staff such as support assistants rose from 36,461 to 71,693.

The reported numbers weren’t just to do with staff in education though, those more holistic plans were supported by other public services. Like Social Work services who increased their level of support from 8,282 to supporting 17,554 children while health service support rises from 14,044 to 30,929 children and young people.

And then it wasn’t just public sector, the third sector were helping too. Through the voluntary sector the recorded numbers receiving support have risen from 1,116 children and young people to 2,526 being supported.

There is even a mysterious “other” form of support that nobody knows what it is but we do know that it has increased from 8,110 in 2011 to 28,676 in 2015. Or so the teachers in each and every school in Scotland are telling us.

The number story wasn’t just being told by teachers. Enquire is the independent advisory service for parents, children and young people with about additional support. They record the numbers of enquiries linked to additional support need issues, many of these are likely to be complaints. In 2011, Enquire received 1,264 enquiries related to additional support. In 2014-15, Enquire received 1,444 enquiries relating to additional support for learning. An increase of 14%. While numbers identified and recorded as receiving support grew from 98, 0000 to 150,000, the number of enquiries increased by 14%.

You might wonder, given better recording of numbers, more and more provision being identified what has happened with numbers using advocacy, mediation, adjudication or the Tribunal? Exponential increase perhaps? Even at the sharp end when parents are fighting for their rights and what they see as best for their children the numbers tell a fuller story.

In 2011, 35 requests were made for independent advocacy, 87 cases using mediation, 18 referrals to the independent adjudication service, 13 Section 70 complaints to Scottish Ministers and 73 referrals to the Tribunal.   In 2015, 75 requests were made for independent advocacy, 156 cases using mediation, 4 referrals to the independent adjudication service, 2 Section 70 complaints to Scottish Ministers and 78 referrals to the Tribunal.

In the five years of annual reporting the number of uses of mediation are as follows

2011 87 cases, in 2012 73 cases, 2013 86 cases, in 2014 134 cases and by 2015 156 cases. This again is a good thing.

There are more numbers that tell further parts of the story – the money numbers! Education budgets like other public sector services have been reduced since 2008. There is a further discussion and debate about those numbers.

This blog has attempted to give a fuller story of what’s happening in our schools as teachers get better at recording information about they do in the schools to support children and young people with additional support needs. In my view the range and quality of work in support in our schools is under recognised and undervalued. If we are truly seeking to improve equity and excellence then the quality of support services are a key resource to support learning and increase achievement.

Will they live happily ever after?

No wonder Scottish education’s going backward

The recent publication of the Education and Skills committee report marks another interesting step backwards for Scottish education. Offering very much a mixed package it supported mainstreaming but had concerns about inclusion. It questioned the level of resources for additional support needs but was worried about teachers diverting time to children with additional support needs in their class. It was concerned about impact on attainment yet took no account of how inclusive education leads to better achievement of the four capacities. Throughout it assumed that special schools are a major part of the answer yet ignored the voices of young people in special schools who feel they aren’t supported.

In terms of the big picture it lacked any great support for the aspiration of an inclusive Scotland where discrimination is challenged and the segregation of disabled children and people from the mainstream of society is ended.

It was a mixed report. In part it was mixed as it relied on anecdote. For instance the anonymous contributor from Dalkeith campus who suggested there was an “exponential’ rise in additional support needs. The Committee and the anonymous contributor seemed unaware that the Warnock Report from 1978 (so last century I know) said

we recommend that the planning of services for children and young people should be based on the assumption that about one in six children at any time and up to one in five children at some time during their school career will require some form of special educational provision.”

In Scotland in 1994 the EPSEN document from HMI said much the same. In its introduction it stated,

“A proportion of pupils, estimated at around 20%, have learning difficulties which are more intractable, but which respond to measures, such as through the assistance of a learning support specialist and/or some curricular adaptations.”

While the Education and Skills Committee (2017) has it as

“The context for the committee’s analysis of education for children with additional support needs in this report is the “exponential” increase in the recorded incidence of children with additional support needs in recent years to a level beyond many people’s expectations”.

In 1978, it was assumed about an estimated 20% of kids would have support needs, in 1994 in Scotland HMI estimated the proportion as 20% and by 2016 according to the Report to Parliament this has increased (exponentially) to an identified 22.5%.

The Committee should have been asking have our educational services been planned to take account of 22.5% of children having additional support needs. Has this significant improvement in the identification, recording and reporting on children with additional support needs by teachers in every school in Scotland and across all education authorities led to better provision and outcomes?

Relying on anecdote and gathering people’s is one way to gain a view of public services, collating and analysing evidence is another. Scottish education has some very good sources of data and information which would assist any Parliamentary Committee. The source in this instance is called the Annual Report to Parliament on Additional Support for Learning.   In terms of outcomes it provides a picture of improving outcomes but also clear evidence of gaps across the range and types of additional support needs. The annual reports are not referenced in the bibliography. If referenced, they would have found the fact that children with social emotional and behavioural needs attain 20% of the national average a clear attainment gap that should be a national cause for concern.

The Committee might have wanted to look at the attainment of children with additional support needs arising from English as an Additional Language. The annual reports not only indicate that schools and education authorities are getting better at identifying such children and young people but also that they are attaining in line with national averages. In 2015 the OECD commended Scottish education saying “Scottish schools are inclusive” – they highlighted three measures of inclusion – the attainment of migrant children, the social mix of Scottish comprehensive and the performance of rural school being better than urban schools. It’s disappointing that the Committee fails to acknowledge when schools and education authorities in Scotland perform at world-class levels. Just because socially mixed inclusive schools doesn’t fit some people’s dogma we have to continue to knock our schools and authorities on their journey towards an inclusive Scotland.

One final point about evidence gathering, observation is another good source of evidence in addition to people’s views. It is another shame that Committee members visited Dalkeith Community campus, visited the two secondary schools yet didn’t manage to get along to the third school on the Campus – the special school, Satlersgate School. They could have been asking how well the shared campus works to support children’s education and their support needs.

As well as neglecting to visit special schools, the voice of children from special school was neglected. “Included in the Main” a report from Enable similarly ignored their views. The “Included in the Main” report asked young people with additional support needs and their satisfaction with their educational setting

“Only one-third (33%) of young people in mainstream school felt they were getting the right support in school. This is compared with two-thirds (66.67%) for young people who attend mainstream with an ASN base. Interestingly only just over one-third (37.5%) of young people who attend a special school said they felt they were getting the right support at school.

A similar trend was demonstrated throughout various responses. 42% of children in solely mainstream provision thought they were doing well in school. Two-thirds (66.67%) of children who attend mainstream with an ASN base felt they were doing well. Interestingly only 44% of those in Special School felt the same.”

Perhaps that report could have been re-titled “Interestingly, Excluded in the Special”? 😉

There remains a gap between policy aspiration and practice as experienced by children and families of those with additional support needs. The words of parents in the Committee’s report are extremely concerning such as children receiving no education or excluded to part-time timetables (which happens in special schools too). Scotland would have been better served by identifying the gaps in outcomes using data from the annual report to Parliament, seeking greater collaboration across support to better meet the needs of all and reconfiguring the role of special schools towards preventing failure in mainstream as part of new ways to help and assist inclusive education.


Education and Skills Committee report 2017


Warnock Report 1978


Effective Provision for SEN 1994 excerpts



Improving Schools in Scotland (OECD) 2015


Supporting Children’s Learning: Implementation of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004  (2016)







Inclusion 2

If our Scottish inclusive education system was an English Premier League football team – we’d be Arsenal. Performing mostly well yet never making that final move towards consistently very high performance nationally or internationally.

Inclusive practices in schooling in Scotland are well-embedded in a number of successful ways and built on over the past 50 years. Belief in the value of education, commitment to all, strong social mix, better performing rural schools are all inclusive elements. So where do we lack that consistently high performance?

Firstly we lack clear commitment and leadership to inclusive education as part of human rights and high quality provision. Internationally the world has moved on regarding inclusive education. UNESCO sets 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are now a global agenda. SDG 4 has a clear focus on education “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

This global goal relates to children’s rights to education. The UN’s Convention of the Rights of the Child has Article 19 “Children’s education should develop each child’s personality, talents and abilities to the fullest. It should encourage children to respect others, human rights and their own and other cultures.” While in 2006 the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities set out Article 24 Education: “States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to education. With a view to realising this right without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity, States Parties shall ensure an inclusive education system at all levels”

So far, so good.

In Scotland in 2000 in the new Parliament drew upon the words of UNCRC to place duties on education authorities “to secure that the education is directed to the development of the personality, talents and mental and physical abilities of the child or young person to their fullest potential”. The Parliament extended children’s rights giving them the right NOT to attend special schools with three exceptions (suitability, other children, cost).

However in 2006 the UK Government claimed an interpretative declaration and reservation to Article 24. It strangely redefined general education with the view ‘the General Education System in the UK includes mainstream and special schools”. In England in 2015 the UK Government stated ”it is committed to inclusive education of children with disabilities and young people and the progressive removal or barriers to learning and participation in mainstream education.”

In Scotland we have never updated inclusive education or moved towards system improvement for inclusive practices. The latest Scottish Government view on this was on the delivery of excellence and equity. This delivery plan went as far to say “We are of course aware that there are wider issues which can affect children’s attainment and equality of outcomes … we are creating the conditions for all children and young people in Scotland to flourish and thrive.” It is not clear that the awareness of the wider issues will lead to action to ensure inclusive education in line with the history of Scotland’s inclusive practices or match the SDG4 goal.

Looking at how to build on inclusive practices requires acknowledgement of Scotland’s successes and strengths and consideration of system and schools failures.

Even within very good schools children encounter failure.   In many cases children who encounter failure in the end do so as individuals. (It’s well known that individuals can cause all sorts of problems in complex social systems!) Barriers to learning occur in the learning environment, relationships break down, communication between home and school becomes fractious and support doesn’t get it right for that child.

In this battle to reduce failure, schools and systems need to get their retaliation in early with more personalised learning and support to take account of individual circumstances. Class teachers and support staff need to collaborate and cooperate in classrooms with the specific aim of improving inclusive practices. Special schools have a role to play to build capacity act as resource centres and offer advice and time to support inclusive practice. We are now at the stage of needing to personalized and individualised packages of support drawing the full range of support services. In a later blog I want to look more at even greater success for inclusive education to ensure every child gets the right support in the right time in the right inclusive learning environment.




Delivering Excellence and Equity in Scottish Education: A Delivery Plan for Scotland Scottish Government (2016)


UK Independent Mechanism Submission to inform the CRPD List of Issues on the UK (2017) Equality and Human Right Commission