4.12. Special Assistance for Pupils

The National Guidelines on Education 5-14 give advice to class teachers on how to adapt their teaching programmes to cater for the needs of individual pupils and groups of pupils. Class teachers also generally have the assistance of visiting or full-time learning support teachers who are attached to primary schools specifically to offer advice and training to other members of staff and to give additional tuition, often on a one-to-one basis, to children experiencing learning difficulties. Such learning support teachers in fact fulfil a number of functions:

  • they assess the learning difficulties of pupils and offer pedagogical advice to class teachers;
  • they teach alongside colleagues in classrooms offering help specifically to children who are experiencing difficulties
  • they may withdraw children from the classroom at certain times to give them intensive tuition;
  • they organise in-service training in schools to assist their colleagues in handling children’s learning difficulties.

These learning support teachers also represent the main channel through which other forms of external support may be offered to the school, in particular the help of the psychological service, the health service (which is responsible for speech therapists, for example) and the social work department whose officers may be responsible for offering help to families with children in the school.

A growing number of pupils with specific needs are being provided for in mainstream primary schools. This topic is dealt with more fully in Chapter 10. Special Assistance for Pupils

Evaluation of the needs of pupils takes place at a number of different levels. The subject teacher in class has a responsibility to see that what is being taught meets as far as possible the particular needs of the pupils in that class and to vary the content, speed of coverage and methodology accordingly.

Secondary schools have a well-established system of guidance with staff who are appointed to schools with the particular remit of offering personal, curricular and vocational advice to pupils. Schools have different ways of organising their guidance systems, but it is usually the case that a guidance teacher has responsibility for a particular group of pupils either for a year or sometimes over several years. Such guidance is particularly important at the major decision points when pupils have to make choices about which subjects to take and which to discard, for example at the end of S2 and again in S4 when they choose subjects for specialisation in upper secondary education or require advice about what they might do on leaving school at the statutory age.

Schools also have staff whose responsibilities relate to the education of pupils with learning difficulties. The subject teachers are already expected to take full and proper account of the variety of abilities present in any class and to differentiate tasks and expectations to meet individual needs. Learning support teachers provide additional help. Increasingly, such teachers work in tandem with their subject colleagues in the same classroom, paying particular attention to any pupils having difficulties in comprehending or in responding to what is being asked of them. Most of their work focuses on language problems and the understanding of particular concepts within subjects. On occasion, they may find it necessary to withdraw pupils temporarily from a class for special tuition, but it is a basic principle of the education system in Scotland to seek, wherever possible, the integration of pupils with learning difficulties into mainstream classes and to support them there. As part of this move towards integration, learning support teachers also act as advisers on pedagogy to their colleagues in the school and as identifiers of the sources of learning difficulties for certain pupils. On occasion they also lead in-service training for staff in the school. For more detail on provision for pupils with special educational needs, see Chapter 10.

Finally there are, as for primary schools, external support services: the psychological service of the education authority, the local health services and the local authority’s social work services.

It is possible for schools to make special arrangements for pupils in Standard Grade examinations and SQA modules for pupils with special educational needs. For example a pupil may be excused a particular element in a Standard Grade assessment or may receive help in writing the examination. Some SQA modules have been suitably adapted for pupils with special educational needs.