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Included in the main launch

Are young people who have learning disabilities really Included In The Main?!

“Mainstreaming education is not the same as inclusion. Simply being present in a classroom does not mean you are included. And many young people who have learning disabilities have told ENABLE Scotland that this is exactly their experience”

That was the stark message from ENABLE Scotland yesterday (2 Feb) as MSPs debated education at the third stage debate on the Education (Scotland) Bill.

The Charity believes it is time to broaden the debate, stating “it is time for the Scottish education system to consider a progressive approach to delivering a truly inclusive education system.”

And today the Charity intends to spark a national conversation with the launch of their national campaign: Included in the Main?!

Campaigns and External Affairs Director Jan Savage said: “We are asking young people, their families and friends, and the professionals who work with them, to tell us their stories, how they feel about their school and their education.

“We want to get a picture of what education is really like for young people who have additional support for learning needs, including learning disabilities, in Scotland today.

“Inclusive education is not about the school setting or placement – it’s about learning in an environment that best meets the educational and developmental needs of every child.

“From what we already know, too many young people who have learning disabilities are still excluded by friends and peers; from classroom and curriculum; and from opportunities and activities that make up every part of school life.

Jan said: “Current government policy includes a presumption to mainstream, but simply mainstreaming is not the same as true inclusion, and the current implementation of this policy has at times left parents feeling like they do not have choice and control in decisions made about their child’s schooling.

“The Guidance on Presumption of Mainstream Education should be replaced with broader guidance on delivering an inclusive education; properly framing the implementation of the legal presumption to mainstream with children’s best interests at its core.

“The Scottish Government has made the commitment to revise this Guidance and now – through our campaign – we want young people, their families and friends to really shape that by joining our national conversation. We will take what we learn from these conversations and create a picture of what really needs to change in Scotland’s schools for young people who have learning disabilities.”

To join ENABLE Scotland’s campaign visit, send your video to or tweet at #IncludEDScot



Names have been changed *

Joan* described her experience of the education system as “turbulent” and “difficult”, stating that it has had a negative impact on her mental health.

She told us: “My son Alex* is 13, he has autism, ADHD and a hearing impairment. He attends a mainstream high school with support from a learning support team.

“At points during the last year I have been getting calls every day from Alex*’s school asking me to come to the school because the teachers did not know how to work with him when he was having a difficult time.

“Having to go to the schools so frequently for Alex* has meant that I cannot attend other engagements. On one occasion I had to travel from a meeting in another city to get to the school for Alex*. These phone calls from the schools did not stop until the family and community support team got involved. 

“I feel like the school focuses on punishing Alex*’s behaviour, rather than addressing the cause of it. He is often put in isolation and has been formally excluded from school.

“Recently Alex* has been prevented from representing the school in a football competition as a punishment for his behaviour. I thought this was really unfair because his behaviour is really a symptom of the fact that he is not getting the support he needs at school.

“I believe that the teachers don’t understand Alex* and his needs. I feel like teachers need more training about autism and learning disabilities so that they can properly support pupils like my son who have these additional support for learning needs.

“Alex* is still adjusting to the move from primary to high school. Primary is a much smaller and supportive environment. He is now at a school with 1400 pupils and I feel he is very much left to his own devices.

“Alex* is very isolated, and he doesn’t have many friends. I feel that most of the pupils at Alex*’s school don’t understand him, and it would make a huge difference if the school done more to support all their pupils to understand Alex* and other pupils like him who have additional support for learning needs.

“Alex* now regularly says that he does not want to go to school and it is clear to me that he is unhappy at school.

“I have raised my concerns about Alex*’s support at school and current learning arrangements. These were not taken on board. The approach very much like ‘this is just the way we do it’ but I think important things, for example like the support during transition from primary to secondary should be tailored to the child. All kids are different. I thought Alex* should have had more visits to high school to help him adjust better.

“I feel like there is so much focus on attainment at the moment. That is important but it can’t be the be all and end all. I would rather Alex* had a positive experience at school, and got the support he needs, from teachers who understand him. I have asked for him to be moved to the disability assistance unit at the school, where I think he would get better one to one support from teachers who are specialists and understand him. But I have been told no because he is capable of attaining in the classes he attends. But what if he is unhappy? That comes out as ‘bad behaviour’ for which he is then punished by the school.

“If I could change on thing tomorrow it would be better teacher training so that all teachers know how to teach young people who have additional support for learning needs like autism and learning disabilities.”

ENABLE Scotland

  • ENABLE Scotland is the country’s leading charity for children and adults who have learning disabilities.
  • We are a member-led organisation. Local ENABLE branches are made up of volunteers, mostly people with learning disabilities and their families and carers
  • Learning disability affects around 1 in 50 people. The most well known form is Down’s syndrome, although there are many others. There is no cure for learning disability.
  • ENABLE Scotland was formed in 1954 by a group of families whose lives were affected by learning disability.
  • We campaign for people who have learning disabilities to live full and independent lives.
  • We provide services to allow people to live work and take part in their communities.

For further information, please contact
Jennifer MacFadyen, Marketing and Communications Manager: 01698 737035
Willie Cairns, Communications Coordinator: 01698 737065

ENABLE Scotland,INSPIRE House,3 Renshaw Place,Eurocentral,N Lanarkshire,ML1 4UF.Tel: 01698 737 000. Registered Charity Number SC009024

ENABLE Scotland is a partner in the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability SCLD Site Admin