Learning disability group calls for views on Special Schools

Debate over creation of special schools was sparked in Moray last month

A MOVE TOWARDS the creation of a special school in Moray could lead to a new look being given to the issue by Councils throughout Scotland, according to the local secretary of a national charity.

Moray Council’s audit and performance review committee was last month told by Laurence Findlay, the corporate director of education and social care, that Moray was facing a “strain on budgets” with a large number of youngsters with exceptional needs in schools.

Mr Findlay sparked an intense debate throughout Moray when he admitted that discussions on creating a specialised school were being held, adding: “This is something we wish to come back to and discuss as a council in the future, as this problem will not get any better in the next few years”.

Now the secretary of the Moray branch of one of Scotland’s leading disability groups is calling on views over the issue so that they can pass on a more informed opinion to the Council.

Enable is seeking the opinion of residents, in particular those with children who have learning difficulties, with the group secretary Anne Speake saying: “We know that there are valid opinions on both sides of this argument and we are looking to gauge what the public feeling in Moray is.

“We are simply looking to see whether people think inclusion is for the best and we will then present our findings to the council. If the council does approve this change then it could lead to authorities all over the country revising their inclusion policies.”

Scottish schools moved away from the policy of operating special schools some years ago, electing instead to teaching children with special needs within the general school population – although schools that address children with highly specific needs do still exist.

Any decision to create a special school in Moray would, Mr Findlay admits, be seen as a shift in policy away from teaching children as part of the general school population.

Professional opinion on the issue is mixed, with Down’s Syndrome Scotland saying such a move could set the education system back years – but the Moray and Nairn branch of the National Autistic Society believe the move could benefit Moray, provided children were assigned to a specialised school “on an individual basis”.

Anyone wishing to provide their views to Enable is being asked to contact Anne Speak on speakeanne@aol.com or m.wood250@btinternet.com.