Campaigners for the rights of disabled young people have welcomed plans to improve the way children with additional support needs are catered for in mainstream classrooms.

Thee move by Education Secretary John Swinney comes on the back of a campaign by the charity Enable Scotland, and a subsequent inquiry by Holyrood's Education and Skills Committee.

The Herald highlighted research by Enable in a series of articles last December which found pupils with learning disabilities were often being failed by a policy which sees them educated in mainstream schools wherever possible. While widely supported in principle, pupils, parents ad teachers all said some children were being bullied, isolated or missing out on trips and activities.

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Jan Savage, executive director at Enable said new guidance proposed by Mr Swinney including new educational resources and rules barring the exclusion of pupils with disabilities from activities would help transform the experiences of young people.

She said the guidance would mean children with additional needs would no longer merely have the right to be present in schools but would have to be genuinely included. "It recognises the need to ensure that all children and young people have equitable opportunities to participate as fully as possible in all aspects of the life of their school," she said.

The Education Secretary said a consultation would be launched to develop the new guidance. Holyrood's Education Committee found that some children felt more excluded in a mainstream school than they might have done in a special school due to a lack of resources.

But Mr Swinney stressed the government was committed to mainstreaming as "a central pillar of our inclusive approach to education" and there would be no change to the legislation underpinning it.

He added: "While we can and should reflect on all that we've done in the past to create and maintain inclusive education and how that has contributed to a real shift in attitudes and achievements today, we must also acknowledge that there is more that needs to be done."

The consultation would seek to bridge the gap between the policy and the day-to-day experience of young people to help councils make decisions in applying the presumption, he said.

Mr Swinney added that independent research into the experiences of children, parents and schools in relation to additional support needs would take place early next year, alongside the provision of new inclusive education resources for schools and an extension of the rights of 12 to 15-year-olds with additional support needs.

Both the Conservatives and Labour said Scotland had "come a long way" in education for pupils who need extra support but more work was needed.

Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said in recent years there had been much better detection of pupils requiring additional assistance, leading to a rapid increase in demand. "While that I think it is very good news [it] clearly that puts additional pressures on our schools," she said.

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said in recent years there was "more need but less provision" for ASN pupils. He added: "It's the opportunities in our schools and not just a desk in the classroom which we are obliged to open up to all."