VULNERABLE pupils are being set up to "fail" in Scottish mainstream schools, primary headteachers have said.

The Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) said the policy of mainstreaming was the right one, but lack of resources was preventing it from working for all.

The warning comes in a submission to a Scottish Government consultation on the policy of inclusion which comes at a time of increasing disquiet over its impact.

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Since 2003 there has been a legally-enforceable "presumption of mainstreaming" for integrating children with additional support needs (ASN) into primary and secondary schools - including physical disabilities, learning difficulties and social, emotional or behavioural problems.

Mainstreaming has the support of the United Nations, which has recognised the right of every child to be educated in their local community.

However, while mainstreaming has widespread support in principle it has been the focus of increasing concern from families and education staff because of a lack of resources.

AHDS said: "The expectations put a clear emphasis on all children. This is not being achieved in the sense that not all children are in a setting most appropriate to their needs or with the staffing and resources to be properly supported.

"We would very much endorse the policy and the expectations, but cannot while it simply leads to unachievable expectations being given to parents and placed on schools due to insufficient resources.

"The expectation that a pupil should receive full time education in a school which best suits their needs is crucially important, but is not always delivered or delivered timeously."

AHDS said the process of accessing specialist provision or additional staff was currently too long.

And the body added: "The presumption of mainstreaming prevents some children being given fair access to a more appropriate environment. Some children are left to fail when they could be much better catered for in specialist provision.

"The expectation that children should receive a curriculum tailored to meet their needs is of course correct, but this assumes that the system has teachers with sufficient knowledge and expertise in all school settings accompanied by appropriate resources."

The closure of many special schools has been accompanied by councils reducing the number of specialist teachers for pupils with learning disabilities.

Disabilities charity Enable Scotland says 22 of the country's 32 local authorities have cut the number of additional support for learning teachers since 2009 and the number is now at its lowest level since 2007.

Meanwhile new teachers report that when they emerge from training they do not feel confident or fully equipped to teach every single child in their classroom.

The Scottish Government has pledged to review guidance on mainstream education following the consultation.