All teachers should receive mandatory training to deal with pupils with additional support needs, according to a headteacher who won the Tedd Wragg Lifetime Achievement Award last year for her work in special education in Scotland.
Lorraine Stobie said the mainstream education of pupils with autism, Asperger’s and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) had not advanced for years and teachers now needed specific training.
“I don’t think enough is being done to help children that are being taught in mainstream schools,” she said. “I really don’t think a lot of progress has been made in the last 20 years.
“We’re no longer in a position where there is quite a slim chance that a teacher will meet a child with additional support needs – that’s going to happen more and more,” she told The Scotsman.
Ms Stobie, headteacher at Southcraig Campus, a special school in Ayr, won the lifetime accolade at the Pearson Teaching Awards in London last October having picked up a similar one at the Scottish Education Awards. “There needs to be something included in initial teacher training.
Mainstream schools could learn a lot from special schools and perhaps teachers could take part in shadowing,” she added. Ms Stobie said that she did not intend her comments as a criticism of teachers and it was “very difficult” for a teacher who had never had special needs training to get that on the job.
Children are being let down by cuts to the numbers of specially trained teachers, educational psychologists, assistants and paediatricians with disability training, according to a review of education provision for the Scottish government published in November.
A series of “bureaucratic complexities” made it hard for parents to find help, the review found. None of Scotland’s 32 councils give mandatory training in this area, the disability charity Enable Scotland said last year after conducting its own research.
This is despite the fact that 15 per cent of Scottish pupils have additional needs, it said. Linda Whitmore, Enable Scotland’s development officer for children and young people, said: “We want to see mandatory training not only in the general topics of additional support needs, inclusion and equalities, but also in the specific areas of behavioural management strategies, communication strategies and awareness of learning disabilities and autism.” CAPTION: Support call: Teaching Awards winner Lorraine Stobie with the charity’s ambassador Anna Friel