Advocating for the rights of children – and using their voices to make change
13 Dec 2023
Developing new ways of working, the team at Enquire has been actively engaging with children and young people to share their thoughts and opinions with decision-makers. Here, Lucy Johnson, explains more.
As Scotland’s advice service for additional support for learning, Enquire has advocated for children and young people in Scotland to be supported, included and listened to throughout their education since 1999. Our role in making this a reality has been to offer advice and information about children’s rights to additional support for learning to parents, carers, professionals and children and young people.
The way we have done this has been developed and adapted over the years, and our approach reflects not only changes within the additional support for learning landscape, but across Scotland itself.
The experiences and views of children and young people with additional support needs have always been central to our vision and values, but recently we have been actively shifting our approach towards being more aware of meaningfully embedding their voices across everything we do.
This conscious shift is recognition that – no matter the audience – our advice and information must place children and young people at the centre.
While Enquire is often seen as a service primarily for parents and carers, our team has always worked directly with children and young people. Reach, our website dedicated to providing information and advice tailored for young people, serves as a platform to share, elevate and raise awareness about what matters to pupils with additional support needs.
Until recently, our work with children and young people shaped the advice and information on Reach. However, we haven’t consistently built what children and young people share with us into our resources for parents, carers and professionals as well as into the overall vision and direction of our work – and this is what we want to do more of going forward. Ensuring children and young people’s views are heard is one part, but the other, arguably more important, part is taking their views and feeding them to decision-makers. We know that Enquire can play a role in this process and better utilise what we hear from children and young people with additional support needs.
We now include the voices of children, young people and families with first-hand experience and knowledge of Additional Support for Learning (ASL) policy and provision into our outreach and information sessions, as well as our responses to government policy and consultations. We’re also reviewing our social media presence to make sure we’re reaching younger audiences, and threading pupil voices through all the advice and information on the Enquire website. Our recent development of the Reach website utilised what we heard directly from children and young people, and it is now more closely connected to the Enquire website for better advice and information.
This shift in focus can also be seen across other areas of work, including becoming a partner organisation in the Inclusion Ambassadors project, alongside Children in Scotland, a role we have held since 2018. This has enabled us to close the loop between what we are hearing from families and what the Inclusion Ambassadors are telling us.
We have become well placed to make connections between areas of ASL that are arising as challenges across the board, as well as feeding what the Inclusion Ambassadors have told us into Enquire planning.
This excerpt was taken from Issue 5 of Insight, the bi-annual publication for Children in Scotland members.
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