Section 2 - What Are My Child's Rights?
In recent years the Scottish and United Kingdom Parliaments have introduced various legislative changes, which will affect the future provision of visual impairment education throughout Scotland. The Disability Discrimination Act (1995); the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc, Act. (2000); and the more recent Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001), have meant that local education authorities in Scotland should now think about taking “reasonable steps” to ensure that children with disabilities obtain the support they require to access the curriculum within a mainstream educational environment; where this is appropriate and in the best interests of the child.
As a result it is now assumed that “mainstreaming” will take place and education authorities as well as individual schools, are legally obliged to review their policies and practice, so that children with a disability are not disadvantaged in any way or treated “less favourably” than their able-bodied peers in gaining access to a full as possible mainstream curriculum.
The Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils’ Educational Records) (Scotland) Act 2002 requires “responsible bodies” such as education authorities; Independent Schools; the Board of Management at self-governing schools; and Managers at Grant-aided schools to develop accessibility plans by April 2003.
These strategies should improve service provision over time and will consider:
Improved physical access to the school
Responsible Bodies will be required to address issues such as;
- improvements to signs around the school
- route finding systems to enable pupils to find their way round a school
- colour contrasting, eg; door handles and steps - to enable pupils
to make best use of their residual vision
- adjustable lighting, blinds
- tactile paving outside the school
- evacuation procedures.
Improved access to the curriculum
Strategies must be put in place to ensure that the visually impaired learner achieves full access to the curriculum, with particular attention paid to improving communication.
All resources provided to pupils in writing, such as handouts, worksheets, textbooks, timetables, test and examination papers, posters around the school, and information about school events should be made available in an electronic format. This Information may then be easily adapted and presented in an alternative format such as; in Braille; in large print; via audio tape; through various means of access technology (such as screen readers and video magnifiers); through sign language or by a recognised symbol system (such as Makaton).
If needed, different classroom learning materials should ideally be presented at the beginning of the lesson, for immediate use by the visually impaired student. Adapted materials should not be made at a later date as this would be a considerable disadvantage for the student, and would therefore constitute “less favourable” treatment.
Any strategic plan should also consider health and safety issues, which have often been regarded as the main barrier to full access to the curriculum. Particular attention should be paid to any potentially ‘problematic’ areas of the school curriculum, such as Physical Education, Science, Home Economics and Technical Subjects. Pupils should not be prevented from studying any subject area and the local authority will have to ensure that this can and will happen.
The Co-ordinated Support Plan
From August 2004, the Scottish Parliament will be replacing the Record of Need with a Co-ordinated Support Plan with the implementation of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act. The Act, which will commence in the Autumn of 2005 states;
(1) For the purposes of this Act, a child or young person requires a plan (referred to in this Act as a "co-ordinated support plan") for the provision of additional support if-
(a) an education authority is responsible for the school education of the child or young person.
(b) the child or young person has additional support needs arising from
(i) one or more complex factors, or
(ii) multiple factors
(c) those needs are likely to continue for more than a year, and
(d) those needs require significant additional support to be provided
(i) by the education authority in the exercise of any of their other functions as well as in the exercise of their functions relating to education, or
(ii) by one or more appropriate agencies (within the meaning of section 23(2)) as well as by the education authority themselves’"
Therefore, a Co-ordinated Support Plan will be provided for children with complex educational needs which require continuing review. A Plan would normally only be provided where a mainstream school or nursery cannot provide for the child from within its existing or easily obtainable resources. A Plan should consider play, recreation, and social development as well as education.
So what is different?
The Co-ordinated Support Plan will be more flexible and responsive than the outgoing Record of Need. It will still have legal status.
- The Plan will be a set of agreements which should include the various approaches that will ensure your child’s educational experience is a positive one. It may for example include your child’s Personal Learning Plan (PLP); and/or state in writing what resources and support will be used to overcome the special educational needs caused by your child’s visual impairment.
- The Plan should include as much detail as possible about the support and help to be made available. It should not be focused on what your child cannot do.
- Psychological and health assessments will not be compulsory but carried
out when appropriate or when requested by you. If the young person and/or
the parent agree, the Plan and other reports should automatically be
shown to all professionals involved with your child. Relevant reports
and the IEP (Individual Education Plan) will be attached to the Plan.
- The education authority will ensure that the Parents/Carers and young
person is provided with one named person contact who can advise on all
aspects of additional support needs.
- All Parents/Carers would have the right to have at the meetings a
person acting as an advocate on their behalf.
- Education authorities should have in place
arrangements for mediation to resolve
- Young people and Parents/Carers will have the right to appeal against
any part of the Plan.
- An independent expert Tribunal will hear appeals. The Tribunal will be open, accessible and user friendly.
The introduction of Co-ordinated Support Plans should lead to a much tighter level of support for visually impaired children throughout Scotland. With the proposed increase in parental and child involvement in future planning and provision, the opportunity for closer relationships between home and school increases considerably.
NB: The existing Record of Need will not be removed immediately. This will be done gradually over the next few years at Reviews and Future Needs Assessments.
NB: (2) Your child will only receive a Co-ordinated support plan if one or more ‘external’ agencies were involved. If not your child will have additional support needs.