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Omitting ASN children from school photo was shameful, Humza Yousaf says

Omitting children who have “complex” needs from some school photographs was “shameful”, First Minister Humza Yousaf has said.

A photography firm and the local council have apologised to parents after school pictures omitted children with additional support needs (ASN) at a primary school in Aberdeenshire.

Parents expressed their fury after it emerged a photographer working for Tempest Photography took additional images of a P5 class at Aboyne Primary School without ASN children.

One of the children removed from the photographs was a wheelchair user, whose twin sister was distraught to learn she had been left out of an image that was offered to parents to purchase.

The First Minister was asked about the reports as he visited a soft play centre in Cumbernauld. He said it was “shameful, really dreadful”.

He told the PA news agency: “It should never have happened at all.

“I don’t want to see another single example of that anywhere in Scotland. It’s not acceptable, not right.

“And I’m pleased the council responsible has apologised.”

The Cornwall-based photography firm, which employs local photographers to take school photos across the UK, has said it “deeply regrets” the hurt caused.

Initially the firm said it had launched an investigation, but has now said it “is not standard procedure” and the company is taking the matter “very seriously”.

The statement, published on X, formerly Twitter, said: “Recently, after capturing a class group photograph, one of our photographers took additional images of the class group which omitted some members of the class from the photograph.

“We deeply regret any upset this has caused and would like to sincerely apologise to the parents and children affected.

“We are a family-run business and photograph at schools across the UK and would like to reassure our customers that this is not standard procedure for our company and we are taking this matter very seriously.

“We are committed to implementing meaningful changes to prevent such an occurrence in the future.”

Aberdeenshire Council also apologised to parents and said the decision was not taken by the school.

The link to purchase the photos was also immediately removed.

Natalie Pinnell, whose daughter Erin was among those excluded from the photographs, told the Press and Journal it felt as though her child was “erased from history”.

The “heartbroken” mother told the newspaper: “To give people the option to erase my daughter from history for the sake of optics is frankly inhumane.

“One of the cruellest things that I’ve ever experienced.”

She said the school was not aware of the situation and immediately took action.

Another parent, Lisa Boyd, told the newspaper her daughter Lily, a wheelchair user, was removed from an alternative photo, and the nine-year-old’s twin sister was devastated.

Aberdeenshire Council said: “We are aware that following Aboyne Primary School’s recent school class photographs, links to purchase the pictures included images with and without complex needs provision pupils.

“Whilst this was not a decision taken by the school, we absolutely appreciate the distress and hurt this has caused some parents and carers and we are sincerely sorry.

“The issue has been taken up with the photography company directly as this is totally unacceptable.”

The council added: “Aboyne is an inclusive school and every single child should be included, engaged and involved in their learning and school experiences.”

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT union, which represents teachers across the UK, called the incident “shocking” and “crass”.

Speaking to the PA news agency at the union’s annual conference in Harrogate, Yorkshire, Dr Roach said: “It’s a sign of, frankly, a lack of understanding about the importance of inclusion and diversity. It’s also potentially evidence of discrimination.

“It creates that sense of a hostile environment for disabled kids, but also for disabled people generally. It’s shocking and needs to be dealt with.”

The company was holding meetings to establish “what the hell happened”, according to one of its bosses who denied any knowledge of the situation and said he felt families deserved an apology.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Terence Tempest, 70, said: “We’re heartbroken. We have released a statement but at the moment I’m just trying to find out what stimulated this and what the hell happened.

“It’s just unacceptable, I don’t know what’s happened. It’s certainly not a policy of ours. We had a crisis meeting this morning, we are having another one this afternoon. Of course I understand how upset the families must be, I would be too.

“If I was in that position, I would want an apology. I don’t run the company and I’m in touch with the managing director at the moment and they will decide what to do.”

He was unable to explain why the situation had occurred and said a freelancer may have made the decision, the Daily Mail reported.

Mr Tempest said: “I’m not sure what the current policy is frankly, it depends what we are asked to do. We just respond to what we are asked for.

“We have got another meeting coming up and will find out whether the photographer was asked to do it. Did they do it off their own back?”