ABERDEENSHIRE Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee considered and approved a revised Accessibility Strategy for Aberdeenshire’s schools, building on the E&CS Accessibility Design Brief and taking a holistic view of all of the things which help to ensure education is inclusive and accessible to all.
In follow up, Committee Chair Cllr Gillian Owen commented: “We are committed to an inclusive approach to education. That means supporting young people who have additional support needs to flourish within mainstream schools where possible, and helping them to grow up feeling included and valued within their home communities. We are committed to ensuring that children and young people are given the right support at the right time to help them develop skills for learning, life and work.”
95% of children and young people in children and young people in Aberdeenshire have a positive post-school destination, regardless of the fact over 30% have additional support needs. While not all schools are fully accessible at this time, there is at least one school in every cluster which is and the intention is that this will grow in time.
Vice Chair Cllr Rosemary Bruce added: “We are fully committed to meeting the needs of every child and this new Accessibility Strategy is one example of how we are investing in inclusion, at the same time as having a funding model which means we are one of the highest spending councils in Scotland in terms of supporting additional support needs.”
The report was well-received by councillors, pleased to see such a vast amount of work going into a really important area. When officers were challenged about why we can’t ensure every school is accessible now, they explained budget constraints and the importance of approaching the learning estate in a managed way – there are already school support hubs and schools assigned to offer enhanced provision which are well-equipped and in time others will be updated too.
There was an extensive debate and Principal Educational Psychologist Carron Douglas also highlighted the many ways they are evaluating work on Autism Friendly Schools, evaluating trends, engaging leadership teams in self-evaluation of their schools and listening to the lived experience of families through the Inclusion, Equity and Wellbeing Team.
The whole idea of promoting an inclusive approach to education has also been furthered by agreement with councillors for officers to produce a revised and updated policy on promoting inclusion and reducing exclusions in Aberdeenshire’s schools. This will replace the current ‘Aberdeenshire Council Education and Recreation Service Policy on School Discipline and the Use of Exclusion’.