THERE is a teacher I know, and every day of her working life, since she returned to school after the summer holidays, she has been subjected to physical violence at the hands of the same pupil - that’s an assault every Monday to Friday for the last two months.

This newspaper recently ran a front page story highlighting the 40,000 assaults carried out against public sector staff each year. The teacher who I know is just one statistic among the many parking attendants punched or nurses harassed.

However, what complicates the issue for the teacher is that the child who routinely assaults her suffers from autism – and displays extreme behavioural problems, including physical aggression to staff and pupils.

The experience of the teacher raises an issue which is almost taboo within the worlds of education, government and politics – the abject failure of the policy of inclusion in its present form in Scotland.

The concept of inclusion is simple and laudable – that all children regardless of physical or learning disabilities should be educated in mainstream schools. However, in practice, the policy is inoperable with the current level of funding and staffing.

Teachers know this to be true, and so does the Government. Only recently, an anonymous letter to education secretary John Swinney, from a primary school teacher, went viral. In the letter, the teacher laid out what was wrong with inclusion – one passage described how pupils had to be evacuated while a child “trashed the classroom” – and explained that the letter had to be anonymous as they feared consequences for saying the unsayable.

“Now that there are very few specialist schools,” they wrote, “teachers are feeling the effects of inclusion on a daily basis. This policy, whilst admirable in intention, does not work as it is drastically underfunded. In my school, it is fairly common for teachers to be physically assaulted by children whose needs cannot be met due to the inadequate level of funding.” The teacher nailed the cause too, blaming a “lack of resources and support from government”.

Inclusion highlights a recurring theme in modern Scottish society: the idea that you can build utopia without hard work; that if you just think good thoughts and say good words, that good things will happen. Utopia, however, costs money.

Let’s leave utopia aside for a moment, though, and get into the dystopia that is modern schooling in Scotland when it comes to inclusion. One teacher told me that at their school they have not had additional support needs staff (ASNs) for the last 10 years. These ASNs are school staff trained to deal with all manner of “barriers to learning” – whether it’s cerebral palsy, dyslexia, or autism.

So, as a nation, we’ve decided – rightly – that all children, no matter what difficulties they face in life, will be educated in a mainstream school. However, we are not paying for the essential staff needed to make the policy work. One cannot say “build me a house” and expect a house to appear if no bricklayers are hired.

In most schools, support for learning staff – what was once called classroom assistants – are filling in the aching black hole caused by the lack of ASNs. Classroom assistants, however, are meant to help teachers in all sorts of ways –they are not there just to paper over the cracks in the inclusion policy.

Let’s take this example of what is happening in schools: there’s a class with about 30 pupils – it’s in a poor inner city area. One child has severe behavioural problems, one child has dyslexia, and one child has minor physical disabilities – problems with balance and walking. There are also at least six children in the class for whom English is a second language, including pupils who are refugees and have experienced war. There are eight other classes in the school, with a roll of around 200 – all with pretty much the same makeup. There are four classroom assistants – support for learning workers – and no ASNs.

One of those classroom assistants will devote all their time to a child with severe behavioural problems, typically with autism, in order to keep disruption to a minimum. The dyslexic child and the child with physical disabilities will get no support. Nor will other children who should also be helped by a classroom assistant – the child returning from a long period of sickness who needs to catch up, the child who struggles with English, the child experiencing grief at the loss of a grandparent.

In this scenario, everyone loses: the majority of pupils have to put up with disruption and are starved of staff time; the pupils with special needs, but not behavioural problems, come second in line to those children who are disruptive; and the disruptive pupils with behavioural problems are simply managed by untrained staff, not truly helped by those with the skills to better their educational experience. Meanwhile, the staff – both teachers and support workers – are run ragged by a policy that sounds great on paper for a politician but is hell on earth when put into practice.

When asked, most teachers seem to agree that inclusion is good in theory – they want schools to be inclusive of all children – but it is a disaster in practice because there is not enough money or staff to resource it and make it work. There are therefore only two solutions: abandon the policy, or fund it properly.

To abandon the policy would be extremely expensive – new specialist schools would need to be built, new specialist staff would need to be trained and hired. Given that many schools have no money for specialist staff, one would imagine that an entire new programme of building specialist schools might also be out of reach. Scrapping the policy would also send out a cruel message: that mainstream schooling is not for those with any form of special needs. No politician would risk that PR disaster.

This then leaves us with the only possible solution: fund schools properly. Central and local government need to stop the sleight of hand. You cannot advocate a policy such as inclusion and then not fund or staff it. To preserve the status quo fails pupils, parents and teachers alike, and exposes as phoney the claim that this country really cares about all children and their education.