Twenty years ago there would not have been an incident like the one at Langlees Primary School earlier this month.
Three youngsters were left with minor injuries when their classmate, who has additional support needs, tipped over a table. This led to a number of parents taking their children out of the school until the head teacher could assure them their children would be safe.
The unfortunate events of March 1 may not have happened if Falkirk Council did not have a policy of inclusiveness, but the local authority said pupils would not experience the benefits the local authority’s commitment to education for all can bring.
Robert Naylor, the council’s director of children’s services, said: “Going back 20 years few teachers would have had the skill set necessary to deal with inclusion of additional support pupils, but now that is something that is increasingly expected.
“They have the training required and they continue to develop it throughout their teaching career. They must be able to cater to the needs of all the pupils.
“The number of children presenting on the autistic spectrum is growing in Scotland. That might be partly down to recognising what the issues are now, but there are a greater number of children like this just the same.
“There are 23,500 children in our schools and we have a duty to educate them all and meet their needs the best way we can. It’s an enriching experience for the children with additional needs and also for the other children too, helping to shape their attitudes to inclusion for the rest of their lives.”
Mr Naylor said there is a broad range of provision in the Falkirk area for pupils with quite specific needs.
He added: “The support given depends on the needs of the child. Maddiston and Kinnaird deal with quite complex needs – children who might have some physical disability and have certain requirements.
“Ladeside has children with varying degrees of autism and is able to cater to those who need to be in smaller groups. There are also children with varying degrees of autism and Aspergers in mainstream classes.
“Additional support needs can come and go – for example a child might go through a difficult time due to bereavement or difficult family circumstances and require additional support during that time.
“It needs careful management and doesn’t mean they won’t ever be in a mainstream school. We have additional staff to enable the child to access the mainstream learning environment.
“Some children get support from learning assistants pretty much all the time, while in other circumstances one learning assistant may support the needs of two or three children in one class.
“Certain children will be okay in the classroom and only need additional support for gym or out in the playground.”
Mr Naylor said there were no plans to reduce these vital education services.
“The council has not made cuts to anything associated with special provision in schools or support for learning assistants.”
Councillor Alan Nimmo, education spokesman, confirmed: “ We have made it a priority to sideline any cuts to education so far and I would like to think we would be able to continue to do that.”
The Langlees Primary School incident was a scary moment for pupils and staff – but it was just a moment.
Robert Naylor, director of children’s services, said: “After the incident last week some parents took the view the classroom was not safe. Perhaps momentarily, for a matter of seconds, the classroom was not safe.
“It happened in an instant and something like this had not happened before. When you have 23,500 children in 50 schools and 350 classes there is bound to be incidents happening on an almost daily basis.
“But if you had a child in a classroom who was being violent every single day then they wouldn’t be in that class. In this case at Langlees the child had been making good progress and there is every reason to expect there will not be a repeat of this incident for the remainder of his school career.”
Anne Pearson, head of education services, added: “We are actually doing a lot of work on inclusion and nurturing to support pupils emotionally. We need to stress, the people who are working with the children are specialists who have undergone training and have experience of working with children who have additional needs.
“We work in partnership with parents to find the education support their child needs. The presumption is mainstream – we always look at placing children in mainstream schools first, but it is not always easy.
“Some parents want their children to be in mainstream schools at any cost, while some want their children in specialist schools because they feel they will be safer.
“An autistic child can be used to the pupils they see all the time, but if a stranger came into the class they may react to that. Those kind of things can be handled by telling the child beforehand someone new is coming to the class and even showing them a photograph of the person.
“Situations like this are continually being reviewed.”