Monifieth pupil to speak in Brussels

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On December 7-8, the European Commission is to celebrate the Day of Persons with Disabilities together with the European Disability Forum.

Monifieth High School pupil, Michael Hands, will be one of those in attendance.

Michael, who is visually impaired, will be accompanied by Principal Teacher for Additional Support Needs, Mrs Olive Wainwright, after Monifieth High School had been invited to send a teacher and pupil along to the event to represent Scotland.

The forward-thinking school has the highest number of Looked After Children in Angus and works towards integrating additional support needs within mainstream education.

Headteacher, Mrs M-C McInally, said the school was “thrilled” to be representing Scotland.

Education Scotland said in a statement: “We were aware of the commitment of Monifieth High School to inclusive practices through work in recent years. Monifieth HS operates the additional supports needs base and Inclusion Hub in a supportive way. Our staff work to meet a wide range of needs and are successful in supporting them to achieve.”

This year’s Day of Persons with Disabilities conference will focus on children and young people with disability. Presentations and discussions will be on the current situation of children with disabilities in Europe, on their access to education and how it contributes to the equal participation of children and young people with disabilities in society. Michael Hands told the Gazette: “I first heard I was chosen three or four weeks ago, when Mrs Wainwright told me at a meeting in our Hub. I’m very much looking forward to it and I understand there will be a lot of speeches, panels and presentations.”

The former Birkhill Primary pupil went on to explain: “My visual impairment has been facilitated as much as pupils with other conditions or any other students. I use slightly different tools, for example my S1 and S2 worksheets are adapted into a higher font size. My experience has been very good, most of the time I forget my impairment is there.”

Olive Wainwright, who will be travelling with Michael, explained that while it was an “honour” to represent Scotland, it was just a part of “everyday life” at the school. She explained: “What we call Raising Awareness, the understanding of different conditions, such as autism, and inclusion for all is just a part of business as usual for us.

“We try to meet the needs of every child, without making them stand out too much. We are in constant contact with parents, carers and outside agencies and always trying to improve, never taking anything for granted.”

At the conference children with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities will be among the panelists, together with representative organizations or groups of persons with disabilities, government representatives, academics and the Fundamental Rights Agency, which will present its report on violence against children with disabilities. The conference is part of the EU’s wider efforts to promote the mainstreaming of disability issues in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Michael, who has enjoyed the role of Prefect since the start of Sixth Year, concluded: “I’m looking forward to visiting Brussels as I’ve heard it’s a very nice place and there is no word of any postponement at this time.

“It will be good to meet other people from different backgrounds. Scotland is a very forward-thinking country and I’m proud to be sharing my positive story.”