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GOVERNMENT'S SOCIAL INCLUSION POLICY IS LETTING YOUNGSTERS DOWN, SAY TEACHERS

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Teachers are worried the government's social inclusion policy is doing more harm than good to youngsters with emoti...
Teachers are worried the government's social inclusion policy is doing more harm than good to youngsters with emotional or behavioural difficulties because schools have not been provided with the necessary specialist support or training to assist them.

On the third day of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' (ATL) annual conference in Belfast, one of the issues to be debated was the effect of inclusive education on mainstream schools.

The association is particularly concerned that, in a recent poll of ATL branch secretaries representing 31 local education authorities, three in four (77%) said they did not receive adequate support for dealing with excluded pupils and pupils at risk of exclusion. Almost a similar number (71%) said they do not receive help with handling violent, abusive, persistently disruptive pupils or those who bully other pupils.

What is especially alarming is that more than half the teachers (54%) said they do not receive help in dealing with youngsters who have committed criminal offences.

Reports of a decline in the number of teachers specifically devoted to pastoral care appears to manifest itself in the significant lack of help for pupils with family difficulties (58%), drug-related problems (52%), and those affected by traumatic experiences such as refugees (58%).

Even pupils with special educational needs (SEN) are reported being denied sufficient support. Forty-five per cent of respondents said that having registered SEN pupils in their class did not necessarily qualify them for additional support.

Peter Smith, general secretary of ATL, said: 'Teachers recognise their social responsibilities but there is a limit to what they can do to. As one teacher commented, there is an urgent need for specialist training for teachers and learning support assistants on how to deal with the new types of pupils they are encountering.

'Although teachers believe that the rights of the child should be recognised, it has got to the point where they are scared to help in case it may result in claims against them. The increase of false allegations made against teachers has led to a noticeable increase in the number of calls to ATL from members requesting our help.

'Teachers do believe social inclusion is a good thing but they want to make sure youngsters get the proper specialist support that they are entitled to.'

Note: The poll was conducted in March/April 2000 of 31 ATL branch secretaries representing 31 local education authorities.

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