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Put children's views at the heart of Additional Support for Learning reform

Following the publication of the Additional Support for Learning Inquiry report, Billy Anderson, Head of Services at Children in Scotland, reflects on Children In Scotland's involvement the inquiry and the next steps required to improve the experiences of children and young people accessing additional support for learning.

After receiving 620 responses to a call for views, facilitating five evidence sessions involving key witnesses, receiving written evidence from 25 local authorities across Scotland and meeting with young people, parents and carers and teachers at informal participation sessions, the Education, Children and Young People Committee (ECYP) Additional Support for Learning (ASL) Inquiry report was published on May 15th 2024.

We were pleased to see the recognition of the positive work of Children in Scotland’s ASL services and the important contribution to policy development and implementation supported by the activity of the Inclusion Ambassadors. We also strongly advocate for the commitment to reviewing certain aspects of the ASL Act including placement request refusal grounds, access to Tribunal and independent adjudication, and criteria for CSPs and suggest timescales for this work to be committed to.

The ECYP Committee report highlights the ongoing challenges of delivering ASL in Scotland and poses questions around the scale and scope of the current ASL Action Plan which was implemented following the Morgan review. Children in Scotland fully supports the plan and the urgent need to consider the recommendations contained within it, but also the additional activity that is required to improve the experiences of children and young people accessing additional support for learning.

When I first read the Inquiry report, the first thing that struck me was this sentence, “The Committee was alarmed to hear there was strong evidence to suggest that the majority of ASN pupils are not having their needs met.” The issues surrounding the delivery of additional support for learning have been evident to us and our services for the best part of a decade. There have been many key reviews and inquiries regarding ASL over the years and the evidence gathered from each one of them points towards an immediate need for change. As the years roll by, it is clear that children and families are still facing the same issues they were ten years ago and no significant and sustained change has emerged over that time.

There are broader challenges related to resourcing of the recommendations made in the report and we would strongly suggest that the Inclusion Ambassador’s vision statement continues to be the driving force of decision making and policy change.

Inclusion Ambassadors - Reach

Our ASL services and those of our members and the wider third sector play a vital role in supporting the delivery of ASL. We do so in collaboration and partnership but the limitations on what we can deliver are severely restricted by funding, which in some cases has remained static for a number of years. As the ASL population curve increases, it feels like we are watching it disappear into the distance and out of reach. There is such a strong will to make a difference, and we do in many situations, but the scale of the challenges that we are facing needs significant investment to catch up with the curve.

We are fully committed to continuing our contribution towards improving the educational experiences of children and young people who require additional support for learning. We do this through our existing Enquire, Reach, My Rights, My Say and Resolve services. We do this to ensure that every child in Scotland has an equal chance to flourish. When the numbers have now reached 37% of all children in our schools then there is an urgent need for Scotland to ensure that wider education policy and reform truly reflect the views and experiences of children who require ASL. We can and must do better.

Children in Scotland’s Response to the Inquiry

Enquire & My Rights, My Say joint response to the Inquiry

All published responses

About the Author

Billy Anderson is Head of Services at Children in Scotland.

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Enquire

Find out more about Enquire, the national advice and information service for additional support for learning

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Reach

The website for young people offers advice and support on accessing their rights

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New report shares positive stories of inclusion in Scottish schools

A new report that summarises the Success Looks Different Awards 2023 has revealed positive stories of inclusion from across schools in Scotland. The annual awards were set up in 2022 by the Inclusion Ambassadors, a group of secondary school-aged pupils from across Scotland who have a range of additional support needs.

The group were concerned that, often, when schools measure achievements in learning they talk mostly about exams. Although exam results are important to many pupils, we know that not everyone will sit formal exams. The Inclusion Ambassadors strongly believe that success looks different for everyone. They set up the annual Success Looks Different Awards to showcase how pioneering schools are helping pupils with additional support needs feel included, supported and celebrated.

The Inclusion Ambassadors led the Success Looks Different Awards 2023 from start to finish. The young people set the award categories, the criteria and judged the entries. Some of the group were also involved in presenting the awards at winning schools.

2023 Award Winners

In 2023, the Success Looks Different Awards had four categories: Early Years, Primary School, Secondary School and Special School.

The winners and runners-up were:

Early Years
Winner: Woodlands Nursery Centre, South Lanarkshire
Runner-up: Wallacetown Early Years Centre, South Ayrshire

Primary School
Winner: Williamston Primary School, West Lothian
Runner-up: Houston Primary School, Renfrewshire

Secondary School
Winner: Our Lady and St Patrick’s High School, West Dunbartonshire
Runner-up: Park Mains High School, Renfrewshire

Special School
Winner: Fairview School, Perth & Kinross
Runner-up: East Park School, Glasgow City

"If you don't do anything about it, inclusion is just a word."(quote from an Inclusion Ambassador)

The winning entries had common themes, such as prioritising relationships between staff and pupils, including pupils in shaping celebrations of success and taking a holistic approach – both with individual learners and the wider school. Some also created opportunities for student leaders and prioritised connecting with the wider community. Each of the entries found ways of celebrating success in creative and innovative ways.

The Success Looks Different Awards 2023 report shares lots of examples of good practice from the award winners.

Lucy Johnson, Enquire’s Senior Development Officer, who managed the award in 2023, said:

“Sharing examples of how different schools support inclusion is an important part of the Success Looks Different Awards. The breadth of applications we have received since the award began in 2022 has given us an insight into the dedication so many educational establishments have to embedding inclusion and recognising that success looks different for every individual. This report is an opportunity for us to recognise and promote this valuable work and celebrate the good practice happening across Scotland.

New Primary School Pilot Report

Alongside the launch of the Success Looks Different Awards 2024, we are delighted to announce the publication of a report on a recent pilot project to trial delivering the Inclusion Ambassadors approach in a Primary School setting.

The report highlights the importance of the adults who work with children in providing support and building meaningful relationships. It also highlights the importance of the learning environment on the experiences of children in primary school.

Lucy Johnson, Enquire’s Senior Development Officer, who was part of the pilot, said:

“In the last few years, the Inclusion Ambassadors group has grown from strength to strength. However, both the Inclusion Ambassadors and the team that supports them felt that there is a gap in the work we’re doing regarding the views of younger children with additional support needs.

By extending the Inclusion Ambassador offer to younger pupils - initially through this pilot - we hope to create further opportunities for all children to engage in decisions made about their support for learning.”

You can access the full primary school pilot report by clicking here.

You can also find more information at childreninscotland.org.uk/inclusion-ambassadors

Success Looks Different 2023

Read our Year 2 Report on the Success Looks Different Award.

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Inclusion Ambassadors

Our advisory group of secondary school-aged pupils who have a range of additional support needs.

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Enquire

Find out more about Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning

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£2m funding boost for football activity clubs

A £2 million funding boost to football activity clubs that provide wrap-around childcare was announced yesterday by the Scottish Government.

The Government will double its investment in the Extra Time Programme, a joint initiative with the Scottish Football Association, from £2 million to £4 million for this financial year. The funding will support more free before and after school clubs, and holiday clubs for children from families on low incomes. It is hoped that this step will help more parents to enter or sustain employment or training, as part of Scottish Goverment's ambitions around the eradication of child poverty.

First Minister John Swinney made the announcement during a visit to Pollok United’s after-school activity club where he heard about the contribution innovative childcare options are making to the eradication of child poverty.
Mr Swinney said:

“We know funding from the Extra Time Programme is enabling football clubs and trusts to provide really valuable childcare options, particularly for families from low-income households who are most at risk of living in poverty. By removing barriers to affordable and accessible childcare, we will contribute to the eradication of child poverty. I will shortly set out further views on this crucial issue in Parliament.

“At the Nethercraigs Sports Facility, I saw children enjoying a healthy snack and fun activities including arts and crafts and sports. Parents have told Pollok United the service helps with food and childcare costs, relieving pressure on stretched family budgets.

“Like many others, I will be supporting Scotland at Euro 2024 when it gets underway in Germany this week. But the Extra Time Programme is a reminder that local football clubs are supporting communities here at home – providing valuable services beyond matchday. They understand the value of that support for local families, and they are well placed to provide crucial facilities and services.”

More information on the Extra Time Programme, and the clubs it currently supports, can be found by clicking here.

Extra Time Programme

Find out more about the Extra Time Programme and the clubs they currently support.

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International Schools Meals Day update

After 12 years, Children in Scotland is sad to announce that the International School Meals Day (ISMD) project is coming to an end in its current form.  

A combination of the loss of funding, a reduction in Comms staffing and the need for all Children in Scotland’s work to align with the 2023-2028 Strategic Plan means that it is no longer possible to continue delivering the project.  

Simon Massey, Head of Engagement & Learning at Children in Scotland, said: 

“Despite the fact I am very sad that we need to end the ISMD project, I am really proud to look back at everything that has been achieved over the past 12 years. We’ve had engagement from 60+ countries across many years, countless organisations working directly with us and thousands of children and young people get involved. 

I want to thank Scottish Government for their ongoing support over the 12 years with both funding as well as expertise in delivery, while both Yibo Woods at the USDA and Lindsay Graham have provided constant enthusiasm, advice and engagement throughout. 

There are too many other people who have got involved over the years to individually thank but please know that every one of them made a meaningful contribution.” 

Some of the main partners have identified a number of highlights over the years including: 

  • The ‘thunderclap years’ – reaching millions via social media campaigns (before data protection legislation put a stop to it). 

The ISMD website will be available until the end of June by which point key information will be transferred over to a new ISMD project page on the Children in Scotland website. 

The ISMD Project

Find out more about the history of International School Meals Day.

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International School Meal Day (2013-2024)

International School Meals Day (ISMD) first came about as a result of an ongoing knowledge exchange connection on school meals between USA and Scotland, which began in 2009. It was recognised that both countries had a ‘National’ week for school meals but there was no ‘Global day’ that celebrated the power and value of school meals.

So, a project was launched with aim of ‘connecting children around the world to help foster healthy eating habits in school and at home, and to share policies, practices and research’, and the first ISMD took place in 2013.

Thanks to Scottish Government funding and a core of international partners, Children in Scotland were able to deliver ISMD each March between 2013 and 2024.

More information will be added about the project in due course.

10th Anniversary Publication

Our 10th Anniversary publication was released in 2022.

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My Food Cookbook

In 2018 the My Food cookbook was released following a global competition.

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#ISMD2024

The final year under Children in Scotland saw engagement from across the world.

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Children in Scotland appeals for Kiltwalk participants to support its vital work

A group of staff and supporters from Children in Scotland are practising their strides ahead of this year’s Kiltwalk event, while seeking others to support their fundraising efforts.  

The group of walkers, led by Children in Scotland CEO, Dr Judith Turbyne, will take part in this renowned Scottish challenge to raise vital funds for the charity. Some of the group will take part in the Dundee event on Sunday 11 August, while others will meet in Edinburgh for the capital’s Kiltwalk on 15 September.  

All funds raised by the charity at Kiltwalk events will be used to further its mission to give all children in Scotland and equal chance to flourish. 

Judith said: 

“I am so excited to be taking part in the 2024 Kiltwalk, surrounded by such a fantastic group of staff and supporters. It’s always such a fun event with a great atmosphere, and knowing that we are raising such vital funds for Children in Scotland will be a much-needed boost over the finish line.  

“Like many organisations in the third sector, we find ourselves in the position of being increasingly reliant on fundraised income to be able to go over and above for the children and organisations we work with. Funds raised at the Kiltwalk will help us to do more to amplify children’s views, provide youth participation and advisory opportunities and membership collaboration and learning, and ultimately move us closer to achieving our Manifesto priorities. We would love to hear from anyone who is up for a really fun walking challenge, while making a real difference to our children’s futures.” 

Children in Scotland recently celebrated its 30-year anniversary, which marked three decades of the organisation championing the voices of children and young people, ensuring that they are at the heart of policy and decision making. Their membership brings together more than 450 organisations and individuals from schools, charities and nurseries to NHS Boards, local authorities and community interest groups. The provision of children’s support services like Reach, Enquire and Resolve continues to be a huge focus of their work. 

Over the last eight years, the Kiltwalk has raised a staggering £42.5 million for 3,300 Scottish charities. Participants can take part in one of three challenges – the Mighty Stride (21 miles), the Big Stroll (11 miles), or the Wee Wander(5 miles) – across four Scottish cities. 

To join the 2024 Children in Scotland Kiltwalk team, please contact Tracy who will organise your entry and provide further information. Thope@childreninscotland.org.uk 

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Abbey Stone

Assistant Policy, Projects and Participation Officer

Abbey joined us in May 2024 as Assistant Policy, Projects and Participation Officer. Prior to this, she was a primary teacher with a particular interest in children's rights. By embedding rights within the classroom, Abbey ensured it was respectful and inclusive environment for all. Children were aware of their rights and promoted them within the classroom, wider school, and the local community,

Before becoming a teacher, Abbey studied MSc in Historical Studies at the University of Strathclyde. Here she specialised in early modern, Scottish parliamentary history. She has a particular interest in the 1707 union of the crowns. As she is from Argyll and Bute she wrote her masters thesis on the 1685 Argyll rebellion.

In her spare time, Abbey likes watching documentaries, attending gigs, and singing.

astone@childreninscotland.org.uk

A new First Minister for Scotland, and time to assess priorities

Following last week's appointment of a new First Minister for Scotland, David Mackay, Head of Policy, Projects and Participation at Children in Scotland, reflects on John Swinney's initial commitment to the eradication of child poverty, and what needs to be done now to achieve long-term change. 

As the dust begins to settle after what had been a rollercoaster few weeks in Scottish politics, we emerge with a new First Minister with a clear focus on tackling what he describes as “the curse” that is child poverty.

During press questions after he was elected leader of the Scottish National Party, John Swinney stated that his “principal policy interest” was eradicating child poverty in Scotland. The passion and determination in Mr Swinney’s response was heartening to hear and warmly welcomed by organisations working across the children’s sector who see the damaging impact of child poverty on a daily basis.

At Children in Scotland, our key aim is supporting all children and young people to flourish. As a member of the End Child Poverty Coalition in Scotland, we have campaigned for interventions to reduce child poverty in Scotland. Key successes in recent years have been the expansion of free school meals and the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment, both of which are having a positive impact for some families who are struggling.

Despite these successes, and child poverty having been a key focus for previous First Ministers, we are still living in a Scotland where one in four children (approximately 240,000) are living in poverty. Scotland is also a country with widening inequalities, and the impact of this can be seen in our national public health data. With an ongoing cost-of-living crisis and public service cuts being introduced in different areas of the country, the child poverty interventions we have made to date alone are not enough to turn the tide. Although positive, they are an insufficient sticking plaster on a bigger problem.

So what can we do to tackle this problem? In his speech, Mr Swinney invited us to watch his government's progress on tackling child poverty. However Children in Scotland, our members, and our partners across the sector, don't want to just watch, we want to work together with the Scottish Government and MSPs to achieve our common goal of eradicating child poverty.

Children in Scotland is writing to Mr Swinney outlining our key asks and inviting him to meet with our Children's Sector Strategic and Policy Forum. To make the change he wants to see, we must ensure there is a sustainable children's sector, where charities and not-for-profit organisations are fairly funded and can plan ahead, and impactful statutory children's services are protected from cuts.

We must also make the most of the upcoming United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child legislation by applying a child-rights lens to all our policy decisions and budgeting, and ensuring there is policy coherence across the different areas of government. This will help to ensure all children are protected in this challenging financial climate.

In the short term, we can and must do more. A positive initial step for Mr Swinney would be to take immediate action to increase the Scottish Child Payment. Back in December 2023, the End Child Poverty Coalition in Scotland campaigned for an uplift to £30 per week ahead of the Scottish Budget, however the announced increase fell short of our calls. We regularly hear from our members that the safety net for families is being pulled away. Many families are living in crisis and short-term action to tackle child poverty is essential alongside a longer-term route map.

As Scotland’s new First Minister, Mr Swinney has inherited a long to-do list. But, as we all know, a to-do list is nothing without prioritisation. We are pleased to hear eradicating child poverty will be the number one priority at the heart of Mr Swinney’s government, and Children in Scotland and our network look forward to working collaboratively with him to make this a reality.

A greyscale image of a smiling person with short dark hair and wearing a light coloured shirt. The image sits inside a pink speech bubble

About the Author

David Mackay is Head of Policy, Projects and Participation at Children in Scotland.

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Children in Scotland congratulates John Swinney on FM appointment

Children in Scotland congratulates John Swinney on his appointment as Scotland’s First Minister.

Earlier this week, we were pleased to hear Mr Swinney reaffirm his commitment to eradicating child poverty. At a time when many families are facing significant cost-of-living pressures and 1 in 4 children in Scotland are growing up in poverty, it is clear more urgent action is required. We are calling on the First Minister to prioritise action on poverty by introducing an immediate uplift to the Scottish Child Payment with a view to increasing this to £40 by the end of this parliament.

To realise a Scotland where all children grow up loved, safe and respected, and where every child can realise their full potential, collaborative working is by essential. With the introduction of new UNCRC legislation coming into effect this summer, we have a unique opportunity to improve outcomes for children and young people in Scotland and to ensure our political decision-making is underpinned by children’s rights.

We look forward to working with Mr Swinney, the Scottish Government, MSPs, and our members and partners across the children’s sector to achieve our common goals. Together we can tackle significant issues impacting children, young people and families today, including poverty and inequality, access to public services, poor mental health, education reform, and the climate crisis.

David Mackay
Head of Policy, Projects and Participation

Children in Scotland joins campaign to put children at the heart of policy making

Children in Scotland has given its support to a campaign that aims to put babies, children and young people at the heart of policy making. Children At The Table led by The Children’s Charities Coalition, a partnership of leading UK children’s charities: Action for Children, Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society, the National Children’s Bureau and NSPCC, is a collaboration with young people and has the support of over 100 charities.

New data released by the Coalition highlights that children feel politicians don’t understand their lives and aren’t listening to them as the country prepares for a general election. The charities surveyed 1,000 children and 1,000 adults and the results from children found that:

  • 62% of UK children think that politicians don’t understand the issues that affect children and young people today.
  • Almost three quarters (73%) don’t feel that children are listened to by politicians.
  • 66% don’t feel they have a say when it comes to decisions politicians make about things which are important to them.

When asked what they would like politicians to focus on to improve children and young people’s lives, more than a quarter of children (27%) said helping families struggling with money and having the basic things they need. Nearly one in five (18%) want children and young people’s mental health prioritised.

Childhood health and wellbeing is also a concern for adults, most of whom don’t think that children today are safer, happier or healthier than when they were children and only 16% think politicians fully or mostly understand the issues that affect children and young people.

Children are a priority for people across the UK, with 84% of adults saying that they think it’s important for political parties to outline their plans for children and young people in their manifestos.

It’s estimated that more than 1 in 4 UK children live in poverty and 1.4 million are thought to have a mental health disorder. Research from The Children’s Society last November found that an estimated 1 in 5 children (20%) are worried about how much money their family has, while half are ‘sometimes’ worried (52%).

David Mackay, Head of Policy, Projects and Participation, at Children in Scotland said:

"Children in Scotland has spent over three decades embedding children's voices in policy making, and looking at the results  of this survey it is clear that this work has never been more important. We are delighted to support the Children At The Table Campaign, with the strong belief that it is only through engaging children and young people in meaningful, ongoing dialogue that we can get to the heart of the issues that most affect them, and therefore make worthwhile decisions for change."

The campaign asks that the next Prime Minister and Chancellor be champions for children - by putting their needs and voices at the heart of decision making.

To support the Children At The Table campaign, please visit and sign their petition.

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Enquire

Find out more about Enquire, the national advice and information service for additional support for learning

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Reach

The website for young people offers advice and support on accessing their rights

Visit the website