Teaching in Scotland: The Truth

It’s the summer holidays in Scotland now, as you can tell from the torrential rain, occasional midgie and rare glimpse of sunshine.

Back 2 School, however, is a common motif In our shops and supermarkets. Anxious first time parents and grannies jostle with world weary P7 mothers, teary teenagers insisting it IS A FASHION PARADE and sulky children who just want to be out playing.

Teachers are on holiday too. Officially. Most people got on an aeroplane in the two or three days after school finished, and are gradually coming back in dribs and drabs, with the thought of next year in mind.

Next year. What will it hold?

Last year, in P4, I struggled.

I’ll take you on a tour of my classroom.

Aiden has ASD, largely presenting in severe anxiety and social issues. He has attacked other children and complains constantly, about noise, silence, him, her, me, you, I, everything. He sits next to Amy. She knows exactly how to wind him up, but so do the rest of the children. She’s the one I can rely on not to punch him back. Aiden needs to be in a smaller environment. He is in a constant state of sensory overload.

Next to Amy I have Brian, who is extremely bright and extremely bored. He needs to be taught at a faster pace. But there’s only me in the room. He doesn’t get on with Aiden or Donald (EAL), who sits two down and delights in annoying both Brian and Aiden. Carly (EAL) sits between Brian and Donald. She’s so timid I barely hear her speak. After Donald, we have Emily (EAL), Fred (EAL), George (removed from his drug addict parents, now in foster care) and Harry (severe ASD). Harry can’t help shouting out, and usually this takes the form of inappropriate comments about the visiting speaker’s hairy nostrils, the head teacher’s fake tan (I did chuckle at that one) or McDonald’s Happy Meals. Harry needs one to one learning support to help him to concentrate. There’s only me, so he has a fidget toy instead. Great.

Ingrid comes next, when she’s here. That isn’t often. Ingrid is functionally illiterate. She sits next to Julia, who works at Early Level of the Curriculum (i.e. P1). Then we have Kate, who is severely dyslexic and needs a scribe. These girls need to work on their phonics, not story writing. But there’s only me here. Lauren comes next. Lauren has ADHD. The room is too busy for her too. She can’t sit on her chair. She sits on the floor, lies on the table or the floor, tries spinning around, knocks into something and goes into meltdown.

Mark is next. He’s a nice kid, and so is Natalie, although she’s always chatting. Oliver is more tricky. I’m worried about him and I can’t identify why he can’t learn. But there’s only me. Ed Pysch takes a year for an initial appointment and Oliver’s parents don’t speak English and don’t engage with additional services. Pete has a physical disability. He’s often tired and in pain. Queenie’s (this is hard) mother is in prison and she’s not coping too well. Rachel’s in foster care. Stewart has severe dyslexia and needs one to one support. There’s only me. Tiegan’s doing well. Una’s alright. She needs more attention. Veronica’s okay. William regularly throws tables and chairs, calls me a fucking bitch and starts battering his head against the wall. He can’t read or write either. Yuri has ASD and is in a world of his own. He wails and stims regularly. He can’t communicate with anyone. He can write a little, but mostly sits drawing. Roughly once a week he will attack a classmate without warning.

Welcome to education in Scotland. Is this education for excellence? Is this lifting children out of poverty?

This is the result of reducing specialist provision for additional support needs and for cutting school budgets. Every single child in my classroom was failed last year, and the year before. They will be failed next year too.

Get it together, Scotland.

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