Thursday, November 19, 2015

Comparative Special Education Law: Scotland - Part I

At the CADRE Symposium in October, I met a special education mediator from Scotland, Morag Steven. She presented an interesting concurrent session. I always find comparative special education law to be fascinating. This is a powerpoint that she used during her presentation. This is her website.

She also agreed to be interviewed for this blog. Her answers to  the first few questions follow. The remainder of the interview will be posted next week:

1. Please tell our readers a little about your background and how you got into mediation and special education mediation.
In 1999 my first job after an extended period of being a full-time mum (one of my sons was born with complex and profound disabilities) was as Mediation Project Officer with a new organisation set up with direct funding from the Scottish Government: Enquire ( Enquire is the national information and advice service for additional support for learning/special education across Scotland. At this time the Scottish Government was thinking about introducing a dispute resolution framework into special education, and I was involved setting up the first pilot. I decided to take some basic mediation training myself - and have been practising as a mediator ever since then in many sectors including neighbour and community disputes, employment and workplace disputes, and equality issues. I gained an MSc in Mediation and Conflict Resolution (University of Strathclyde) in 2012, and my current work includes mediating professional complaints for the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and also teaching mediation to newly qualified law graduates as part of the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice (required in Scotland in order to work as a lawyer). Interesting progression for someone who's not a qualified lawyer myself! But my real passion is special education mediation - and that's the majority of my work.

2. What are the special education laws like in Scotland?
Scotland is (still!) part of the UK, but since 1999 education is one area that has been devolved to the Scottish Government which means our education laws are a bit different from those in England. One major change was the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (amended 2009) which introduced the very broad concept of ASL to include every child/student who faces some sort of barrier to their learning. The Act also introduced a dispute resolution framework including independent mediation and third party review by the Additional Support Needs Tribunal Scotland. The Act was designed to strengthen parents' rights to request assessments, receive information and advice, be involved in planning support for their child/student, etc.
The (UK) Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society, and makes it unlawful for schools to discriminate against students because of their disability or other factors.
Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) is a major current policy to meet the Scottish Government's aspirational aim of 'making Scotland the best place in the world for our children and young people to grow up'. Aspects of this policy became statutory in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
As a non-lawyer, I feel that Scotland has robust legislation and policy; however getting these embedded into practice in schools has so far met with variable success. Policy writers often forget about the human factors!

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