Education (Disabilities)

Scottish Ambulance Service – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 7th February 2002.

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Photo of Elaine Thomson Elaine Thomson Labour 2:30 pm, 7th February 2002

To ask the Scottish Executive what steps are being taken to improve educational provision for school pupils with disabilities. (S1O-4636)

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

The Scottish Executive has introduced the Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils' Records) (Scotland) Bill to improve educational provision for school pupils with disabilities. The bill is currently undergoing stage 1 consideration and will require education authorities and independent and grant-aided schools to prepare accessibility strategies. Through those strategies, education providers will plan progressively to improve access to the curriculum, the school environment and school information for pupils with disabilities.

Photo of Elaine Thomson Elaine Thomson Labour

Does the minister agree that narrowing gaps in attainment between advantaged and disadvantaged children is vital, whether the disadvantage comes from disability, a less affluent background or behavioural difficulties?

Due to extra social inclusion funding, all schools in Aberdeen will develop bases for children with behavioural difficulties. I invite the minister to see for herself the high standard of educational provision for children with special needs when the Parliament visits Aberdeen in May.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I thank Elaine Thomson for updating the Parliament on the good work that is being undertaken in Aberdeen with the assistance of Executive funding. I would like to take up that invitation when the Parliament visits Aberdeen in May and have accepted a similar invitation from Aberdeen City Council to find out how it is working on its integrated children's services plan.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

I am sure that the minister realises that implementing the measures that are contained in the bill involves a cost implication for schools. What assistance will the Executive give to schools in the independent sector to help them to meet those additional costs?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

The Scottish Executive, as Murdo Fraser may be aware from the discussion in the committees, has said that it will give £9 million in general local government revenue grant to assist local authorities to implement the accessibility strategies. In addition, education authorities will be able to access funding from the excellence fund inclusion programme, which will amount to around £51.3 million over the next three years.

I understand that the independent schools have made some representation to the Education, Culture and Sport Committee. My colleague Nicol Stephen has either replied or is in the course of replying to those comments.

Photo of Cathy Peattie Cathy Peattie Labour

Does the minister agree that the role of parents is important in designing education for children with disabilities? It is important that local authorities work closely with parents and listen to what they say about their children's education.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I agree absolutely that it is vital that parents be involved in their children's education. That is one of the main reasons why we wish to roll out the new community schools programme. That programme will ensure that parents and others who have an interest in improving attainment levels, particularly for young people from a disadvantaged background, are involved in building on the success that we have already achieved.