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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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