“Terrifying damage” is being done to vulnerable pupils as a result of the controversial policy of mainstreaming, the government has been warned.

A consultation on new guidance for schools highlights a raft of problems including violence and disruption due to lack of support staff.

Since 2003 there has been a legally-enforceable “presumption of mainstreaming” to integrate children with additional support needs (ASN) into primary and secondary schools.

Mainstreaming has the support of the United Nations on the grounds that it is the right of every child to be educated in their local community regardless of physical disabilities, learning difficulties or social, emotional or behavioural problems.

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.

The Scottish Government consultation, published yesterday, attracted nearly 400 responses from teachers, charities and education bodies.

One teacher said: “The damage being done is terrifying and our children are being let down by us regardless of how hard we try in class.”

Another submission stated: “Safety has been a huge concern in my school and in nearby schools in recent years. We work in a mainstream setting with children who are regularly violent.

“This is not inclusive for the other children in the class as lessons have to be stopped regularly and the classroom evacuated.”

A third teacher said: “In my school, there are a handful of children who are now influencing the entire building’s mood and learning experience.

“In my opinion, they shouldn’t be allowed to make other children feel scared coming to school and staff should not be completing violent incident forms on a daily basis.”

A primary teacher said children’s needs were not being met in her school due to lack of staff and resources.

“This leads children to either become scared and withdrawn or lash out at peers and staff,” she said.

“This is creating tension in schools and stress among teachers and perhaps most worryingly, creating discrimination as children see classmates with special needs as different and dangerous.”

A common concern was the damage disruption caused to the education of other pupils in the class.

One teacher said: “Mainstreaming has had a huge impact on my teaching and the attainment of my pupils.

“In my current class we never have silence due to an autistic child. He has regular meltdowns where he throws furniture.

“I spend at least an hour a day cajoling and calming instead of teaching yet apparently he is in the ‘right environment’.”

An acting headteacher, said she had seen a number of P1 children, predominantly with autism and learning difficulties, “waste” a year of more of their life trying to settle in mainstream school whilst “extensively disrupting the education of others, demoralising stressed staff and worrying parents”.

She said: “This benefits no one. Some children, through no fault of their own, find mainstream education overwhelming and upsetting. Children like these should not be put through this experience.”

Charity Scottish Autism said: “Unfortunately, many of our children in mainstream education are being excluded, offered alternative specialist provision or becoming school refusers because mainstream is unable to support behaviours that may challenge.

“Unfortunately, many of these behaviours that may challenge are symptomatic of the school environment not being flexible and inclusive enough to individual needs.

“A greater level of support is required to a range of education providers to ensure this vision is a reality for every child.”

The consultation evaluation report concluded that mainstreaming had attracted “polarised views” with a majority agreeing with the overall vision of inclusive education.