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Scotland’s education system “needs structural and cultural reform”

As part of our contribution to the National Discussion on Education, we’ve called for a stronger focus on wellbeing and rights-based approaches, improvements in additional support for learning, and expressed strong support for governance reform.

In a briefing submitted in response to the Scottish Government’s National Discussion on Education, we acknowledge the amount of work currently taking place to reform education in Scotland, including creating new education bodies and a formal review of qualification and assessments.

The briefing outlines key areas we believe require progress, encompassing governance reform, meaningful participation of children and young people, wellbeing and learning, additional support for learning, exams and assessments and anti-racist education.

Based on extensive consultation work with our members and the wider children’s sector, as well as knowledge developed through years of engagement work with children and young people, the briefing recommends action and change for the benefit of current and future learners in Scotland.

Amongst its recommendations, it calls for:

  • New agencies to have a governance structure with an explicit role for parents, teachers, children, young people, school leaders and the third sector
  • Recruitment to leadership roles in national agencies to seek to appoint people from diverse backgrounds and experiences
  • More support to embed participative approaches to engagement in school settings and ensure a focus on relationship-based approaches in education through initial teacher education and continuing professional learning
  • A return to 2010 levels of specialist provision for additional support needs
  • Increased focus on ASL in initial teacher education and through continuous training
  • New / renewed national policy to support training in racial literacy
  • Removal of standardised tests in favour of a more holistic approach to achievement.

Children in Scotland's Chief Executive Jude Turbyne said:

“Scottish education needs a significant structural and cultural change to ensure all learners’ needs are met.

“We know from our extensive engagement work that currently the education system isn’t delivering for learners or teachers.

“We are consistently told about issues around support for learning, and the impact on mental health and wellbeing that the current exam system can result in. Calls for or more open, inclusive and representative governance are also well overdue.

“We have an opportunity, through the National Discussion and other reviews, to fundamentally change the school and learner experience for children and young people in Scotland.

“We are calling for a united effort to recognise these problems and deliver a rights-based, inclusive education system which truly responds to what young people are telling us.”

The briefing builds upon the Learning theme of Children in Scotland’s 2021-26 Manifesto, launched in November 2020.

Alongside feedback from the Inclusion Ambassadors, it was submitted to Scottish Government in response to their consultation Let’s Talk Education: Our National Discussion.

The National Discussion on Education closed for responses on 5 December.

Click here to read the Children in Scotland Education Briefing in full

Click here to read the Inclusion Ambassador’s submission to the National Discussion


Education Briefing

Presenting evidence and outlining our calls for change

Click here to read the Briefing

Let's Talk Education

The Inclusion Ambassadors respond to the National Discussion

Click here to read their submission

Children in Scotland Manifesto 2021-26

Read our calls for change across 10 themes

Click here to find out more

Inclusion Ambassadors

Find out more about the work of the group

Click here to visit their website


The Scottish advice service for additional support for Learning

Click here to find out more

My Rights, My Say

Helping children aged 12-15 with support needs to exercise their rights in school

Click here to find out more

ASL progress report reveals too many children still missing out

30 November 2022

Children in Scotland has responded to the latest ASL Implementation Plan progress report, published by the Scottish Government. 

The second ASL Implementation Plan progress report from government identifies work undertaken since November 2021 and actions to be delivered over the course of the current Parliament in response to the recommendations made during the current review of implementation of additional support for learning, started in January 2019.

Published today (30 November) it identifies that across the 76 original recommendations, 24 have been fully met whilst progress continues to meet and deliver on the 52 outstanding.

Review of progress

Some key progress points highlighted include:

  • Continued work of the Inclusion Ambassadors to raise awareness of the experiences of pupils with ASN, provide resources to support better inclusion practices and celebrate best practice through the new Success Looks Different Awards
  • Ongoing funding for vital national services including Enquire, Let's Talk ASN and My Rights, My Say
  • Representation of parents and carers on all Scottish Government groups about additional support for learning as well as additional funding for groups who support and enable continued engagement
  • Creation of a new Pupil Support Staff Professional Framework
  • Revised teaching standards with specific mention of additional support needs and neurodiversity
  • Additional support for learning now forms part of the Association of Directors of Education Scotland leadership programme.

Too many children still missing out

While Children in Scotland welcomes progress so far and a commitment to deliver on the remaining recommendations, we worry that progress continues to be slow. This means too many children and young people are still failing to receive the support they are legally entitled to.

We would also like to see more analysis of the impact of current measures and how these are making a tangible difference to the educational experiences of children, young people and their families.

Billy Anderson, Children in Scotland’s Head of Services responded to today’s report, saying:

“The delivering of a number of recommendations made originally in Angela Morgan’s 2019 Review of ASL Implementation is very welcome. We thank the Scottish Government for continuing to focus their efforts to deliver change and improvements for all young people who require additional support for learning.

“We are pleased to be able to play a part in delivering on these through our continued support of the Inclusion Ambassadors group and delivery of the Enquire, Resolve and My Rights, My Say national services.

“However, the pace of progress is slow and there are some gaps in the reporting that need to be filled in order to provide a fuller picture of the impact for children and families so far.

“We also note there is a lack of reference to children who are on part-time timetables, those who have been excluded from school, as well as children and young people with additional support needs who are disproportionately affected by the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and are faced with the current cost-of-living crisis."

“We welcome the progress and will continue to support the Scottish Government to deliver on their commitments but are calling for a sharpening of focus and an increased pace of progress so that those who are currently in education see a direct improvement to their educational experiences as well as laying the foundations of positive, sustainable change for the future.”

Children in Scotland is also calling for more evaluation of the actions taken so far, as well as reference to how they have directly impacted on the specific issues raised in the original report, including more input from parents, young people and teachers about the real-terms difference to their lives.

The Additional support for learning review action plan: second progress report is now available on the Scottish Government website.  Click here to read the full report.

Enquire has also produced an easy-read version suitable for children, young people and their families.  Click here to access this version of the report.

ASL Implementation progress report

Read the Scottish government's second progress report

Click here to view

ASL Progress report: easy read version

Read the easy read version of the progress report from Enquire

Click here to view

Policy briefing: Education and learning

Outlining evidence supporting our calls for change

Click here to read


More about the national advice service for additional support for learning

Click here to visit their website

Inclusion Ambassadors

Find out more about the work and resources from the Inclusion Ambassadors

Click here to visit their website

My Rights, My Say

Supporting 12-15 year olds with ASN to be more involved in decisions about their lives

Click here to visit their website

Resolve ASN Mediation services

Creating solutions for educational disagreements

Click here to visit their website
Headshot_Lucy McKee

Comment: We need more action on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools

Posted 23 November, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

Three years on from its report into the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, ENABLE Scotland has highlighted the lack of progress. Here, Lucy McKee (pictured), reiterates the call for more to be done to protect the rights of disabled young people.

As an ENABLE Scotland Ambassador, my role is to raise awareness of our work to promote and support the rights of people with learning disabilities throughout Scotland. An important issue for the rights of young people with learning disabilities we have been campaigning on is the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, where young people are physically restrained or removed from classrooms as a result of behaviours directly linked to their disability. For too many young people, this has resulted in physical and emotional injury which have lasting effects for them and their family.

Legislative change

We believe there need to be new laws to protect young people from the damage caused by restraint and seclusion.

In 2019 we published our report, In Safe Hands, which provided testimony from young people and parents of how they had been affected by restraint and seclusion. It highlighted the fact these practices are used on hundreds of occasions in schools each year.

ENABLE Scotland Trustee and campaigner Beth Morrison has campaigned on this issue for many years since her son Calum was forcefully restrained in his school setting. Since 2010, Beth has campaigned tirelessly for Calum’s Law on restraint and seclusion. Since 2019 when ENABLE published In Safe Hands, Beth took calls from over 600 families who claim their child has been the victim of seclusion and/or restraint in their school setting. She is now working with Daniel Johnson MSP who is examining the potential to bring forward a Members' Bill on restraint and seclusion in the Scottish Parliament.

Slow progress

The campaigns which ENABLE and Beth have worked on together to raise awareness of these incidents led to the Scottish Government consulting on new guidance for staff in schools to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion. During the Scottish Government’s consultation, ENABLE published a new report, In Safe Hands Yet. This report stated that, three years after we called for action, there has not been enough progress to protect the rights of young people with learning disabilities on this important issue.

Call to action

While we welcome the consultation on new guidance for schools, we are concerned that this will be non-binding and does not go far enough. In Safe Hands Yet calls for urgent action to:

  • Publish statutory guidance
  • Centrally monitor and regulate the use of restraint and seclusion in schools
  • Introduce and mandate training for education staff in strategies to minimise the need for seclusion and restraint in schools
  • Launch a national strategy to eliminate the use of seclusion and restraint in our schools.

We believe the Scottish Government’s proposed Learning Disability, Autism and Neurodiversity Bill also gives us the chance to change the law. We do not want to have to ask the question 'in safe hands yet?' again in another three years with little progress. We want to see concrete action being taken to protect the human rights of children and young people with learning disabilities in our schools.

Lucy McKee is ENABLE Scotland’s Membership Ambassador

Click here to visit the In Safe Hands campaign pages

A little girl with glasses stands with an open book. Behind her are shelves full of books and there are some out of focus in the foreground.

News: Dyslexia genes identified by Scottish-led study

Posted 25 October, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

Scientists have for the first time pinpointed a number of genes that are reliably associated with dyslexia.

The researchers say their findings will aid understanding of the biology behind why some children struggle to read or spell.

Family genes

First recognised in the 1870s, a definition was not reached until the 1960s. Now, dyslexia is typically given as a diagnosis if reading and spelling abilities are poor and much lower than a person’s other academic skills or cognitive abilities.

According to Dyslexia Scotland one in 10 children and adults has dyslexia in Scotland.

Dyslexia is known to run in families but, until now, little was known about the specific gene that increase the risk of developing it.

Research findings

The most recent study, led by the University of Edinburgh, is the largest genetic study of dyslexia to date.

Researched tested the association between millions of genetic variants with dyslexia status and found 42 significant variants.

Some of these are associated with other neurodevelopment conditions, such as language delay, and with thinking skills. Many, however, are novel and could represent genes that more specifically associate with processes essential for learning to read.

Many of the genes associated with dyslexia are also associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A much smaller overlap of genes associated with dyslexia was found for psychiatric, lifestyle and health conditions.

Researchers say they were able to predict how well children and adults from four other research studies can read and spell sing the genetic information from the study. However, these would not be accurate enough for diagnostic use.

Lead researcher Dr Michelle Luciano from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences said:

“Previous work suggested some brain structures may be altered in people with dyslexia, but we did not find evidence that genes explain this. Our results also suggest that dyslexia is very closely genetically related to performance on reading and spelling tests, reinforcing the importance of standardised testing in identifying dyslexia.”

The study, led by the University of Edinburgh, was done in partnership with Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (Netherlands), QMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute (Australia) and US company, 23 and Me Inc.

New report reveals what really matters to pupils accessing additional support for learning

A new report from Children in Scotland has identified key messages from young people with additional support needs on how best to support their education journey.

The work is part of a larger project, managed by Education Scotland, to contribute to the development of a new professional framework for pupil support staff.

The Pupil Support Staff Engagement Project report, which follows engagement with 150 young people aged 4-19 years old across 27 local authority areas, highlights the importance of support staff and how they help young people feel safe and happy in school.

The young people involved in the participation work, led by Children in Scotland, highlighted their desire for:

  • meaningful relationships and connection with staff
  • support staff to use a nurturing approach, demonstrating kindness, patience, empathy and treating the young people with respect.
  • support staff to have up-to-date training in additional support for learning and have a good understanding of the breadth of issues people may experience
  • a recognition of individual needs and that a one-size fits all approach does not work
  • flexibility to adapt to different situations, including new ways of learning and alternative methods of support
  • consistent support
  • transparency around information sharing and decision-making.

Chris Ross, Children in Scotland's Senior Policy, Projects and Participation Officer,  said: 

Our work on the Pupil Support Staff engagement project has reaffirmed much of what we already know about additional support for learning. Children and young people consistently tell us they want staff to focus on their wellbeing and to get to know them as individuals and that doing so supports them to learn. This continues to be reflected within the findings of this project so far.

“Putting children’s voices at the centre is key to any development relating to service provision for children and young people.

"We look forward to seeing the development of the professional framework and believe the learning from this stage of the project can play a key part in ensuring we are meeting the needs of young people with additional support needs, and embedding a rights-based approach to education in Scotland.”

Following on from Children in Scotland’s engagement work, Education Scotland will now be leading a period of engagement with practitioners across Scotland.

Click here to read the Pupil Support Staff Engagement Project report


Pupil Support Staff: young people's views

Sharing the views and experiences of young people who access additional support for learning

Click here to read

Inclusion Ambassadors

Find out more about the work of the Inclusion Ambassadors

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"Some support assistants are sound"

Access these podcast episodes on what makes a good PSA, and why they are vital

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Looking for support or advice?

Enquire is the national advice service for additional support for learning

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My Rights, My Say

The advice and advocacy service making sure children's rights in education are heard

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Helping young people understand their right to education and support

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Winners announced for Success Looks Different awards


Scotland’s national Inclusion Ambassadors have crowned three schools across Scotland winners of the first ever Success Looks Different Awards in recognition of how they celebrate their pupils with additional support needs.

The awards, developed by the Inclusion Ambassadors and managed by Children in Scotland, allow schools to share how they support the achievements of their pupils with additional support needs outwith traditional academia.

Specifically, the Inclusion Ambassadors were looking for evidence of celebrating pupils with additional support needs and their individual achievements, sharing success with the wider community as well as doing something creative, innovative and different.

More than 40 schools, representing primary, secondary and specialist provision submitted applications.

Each of the winners, chosen by the Inclusion Ambassadors, demonstrated a particular commitment to celebrating individual pupil journeys, evidence of positive relationships between pupils, staff and peers and a focus on children’s rights.


  • PRIMARY AND EARLY YEARS WINNER: Braehead Primary School, Stirling
  • SECONDARY SCHOOL WINNER: Alva Academy, Clackmannanshire
  • SPECIAL SCHOOL WINNER: Cedarbank School, Livingston

Lucy Johnson, Enquire’s Senior Children’s Rights and Communications Officer, who managed the award, said:

“We received a large number of entries from a range of provision and geographic locations. Across all, a common thread was a commitment to, and creativity in, including and celebrating pupils as individuals.

“Congratulations to all the 2022 winners. We hope this year’s awards will be the first of many.”

Monica Nelson, a Support for Learning teacher who entered the awards on behalf of primary and early years winner Braehead Primary School, said:

“'As a school, we are very proud of all our students and their achievements. We feel it is vital to recognise that success is not just measured by academic performance. We have incredible, dynamic individuals who face lots of different challenges.

“Our team work hard to provide opportunities for all students to showcase their skills and talents and are honoured to be recognised for this with the Success Looks Different Award.”

Scott McEwan, Headteacher at Alva Academy, who took home the top accolade for the secondary school category, said:

“We are delighted to have been recognised for the outstanding work of our fabulous young people and exceptional colleagues. The award reflects our unflinching commitment to make sure every young person can thrive, achieve and fulfil their potential.”

Carol McDonald, Headteacher of Cedarbank School, which was named winner of the special schools category, said:

“We are absolutely delighted to have won. This recognition of our work by Children in Scotland is a real accolade for the Cedarbank community.

“Our young people demonstrate an array of different talents, attributes, skills and abilities every day. Success looks different for each individual and we love celebrating and sharing the success and achievements of all our pupils.“

The Success Looks Different Awards was developed by Children in Scotland and the Inclusion Ambassadors to support the Scottish Government’s commitment to recognise and appreciate success for pupils with additional support needs, and the forms this takes, as outlined in their Additional Support for Learning Action Plan.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Education & Skills said:

“I’d like to congratulate the winners and all those who participated in the inaugural Success Looks Different awards. This award recognises the wide-ranging achievements of learners and offers an important platform for schools to share the innovative ways they are supporting children and young people with additional support needs.

“I’d like to thank the Inclusion Ambassadors and all participating schools for their commitment to supporting and celebrating the success of their pupils.”

Each of the winners and runners-up will receive a physical award, to be presented during the current school term.

There is also plans to share the many examples of good practice received from schools, with the intention of helping schools across Scotland reflect, and build upon, the inclusive way in which they involve and celebrate pupils with additional support needs.


Contact (Tues, Wed, Fri): Jennifer Drummond, Communications Officer, Children in Scotland - 

Contact (Mon, Thurs): Chris Small, Communications Manager, Children in Scotland -

Notes for Editors

  • Primary and Early Years winner: Braehead Primary School, Stirling. Runner-up: Whitecrook Primary, West Dunbartonshire
  • Secondary School winner: Alva Academy, Clackmannanshire. Runner-up: Hillpark Secondary School, Glasgow
  • Special school winner: Cedarbank School, Livingston. Runner-up: Harmeny Education Trust, Edinburgh
  • The Inclusion Ambassadors is a national group, established to give young people with additional support needs a voice in decisions about education policy. The current Inclusion Ambassadors group is made up of secondary school-age young people with a wide range of additional support needs, representing 16 different local authority areas across Scotland. The group is managed by Children in Scotland.


Success Looks Different

More about the winners of the inaugural awards

Click here to find out more

Inclusion Ambassadors

Ensuring the views of young people with additional support needs are heard in education

Click here to find out more

Resource bank

A one-page information sheet highlighting the current resources available from the Inclusion Ambassadors

Click here to download

Education Improvement: Data gathering must be accurate, considered and purposeful

Children in Scotland has responded to the Scottish Government’s latest consultation on the Education National Improvement Framework (NIF) applauding its overall aim but warning data gathered must be accurate and appropriate in order to lead to tangible improvements.

In our consultation response, we welcome the Education National Improvement Framework and its ambition to widen recognition of achievement, close the poverty-related attainment gap and place the needs and rights of every young person at the centre of education.

Our rights-based response is informed by engagement with children and young people across advisory groups and projects in the past two years and the real concerns we have heard from them about education.

Our recently completed project 'Young People and Their Data', in partnership with the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR), supported an acknowledgement of the importance of appropriate, accurate and transparent data in order to achieve the ambition of the Education NIF in providing benchmarks and measurable goals for the future.

Our response outlines key recommendations, including:

  • a focus on improving the attainment of all children
  • more engagement with services including Enquire, My Rights My Say and the national Inclusion Ambassadors to identify educational inequalities and defining what action can be taken to make tangible improvements
  • end the use of non-contextualised data, which can lead to inaccurate conclusions, as particularly evident with regards to attendance and exclusion figures for children and young people with additional support needs
  • use a holistic assessment tool for children in the early years, when gaps begin to become apparent, such as the internationally recognised Early Development Instrument (EDI) which focuses on more than just literacy and numeracy.

Whilst welcoming the willingness of the Scottish Government to extend recognition of achievement beyond academic qualifications, we are aware of the inequalities of opportunity to achieve outwith school depending on geography, socio-economic group or other factors. Progress on a ‘hobby premium’, as recommended in our Manifesto for 2021-26 (click here to read), may go some way to begin to address this.

Finally, we highlight the requirement to ensure children, young people and their families are made fully aware of how their data is collected, stored and used.

Elaine Kerridge, Policy Manager - Projects and Participation, said:

“We applaud the overall intentions of the Education National Improvement Framework but do have some concerns over the accuracy of the data currently gathered.

“Ultimately, we appreciate data gathering is an important tool in service improvement. It provides a starter marker, creates a benchmark for comparisons and provides a tangible and measurable end goal. It is important, therefore, that we get this right.

“Children in Scotland has been involved in a number of projects to contribute to the growing body of evidence around education reform. We hope these, as well as ongoing reviews into education in Scotland will contribute to a national conversation and meaningful, demonstrable improvement in this area.”

The  National Improvement Framework and improvement plan was published in December 2021 and sets out the vision and priorities for Scottish education, as well as national improvement activity that is to be undertaken.

A consultation seeking views on improving the collection of data to assess progress towards closing the poverty-related attainment gap closed on 18 July.

Click here to read our response in full

Education Framework

Read our response to the Education NIF consultation

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Join us in membership

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Manifesto 2021-26

Including calls on Tackling Inequality, Early Years and Learning

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Our vision and values

Find out more about the vision and values that guide us

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People, not numbers

Latest news: New report reveals young people's views on data

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New project to better understand what pupil support in Scotland should look like

Children in Scotland is working with Education Scotland and the Scottish Government to build knowledge and influence practice development around support for young people with additional support needs in an education setting.

Children in Scotland will spend the next six weeks consulting and engaging with young people with additional support needs to identify what best practice might look like and, crucially, what steps can be taken to practically improve support.

The work is intended to help develop understanding of what is important to children and young people with additional support needs and how best to support them on their educational journey.

It forms part of a wider consultation on behalf of the Scottish Government relating to pupil support and ongoing activity in response to Angela Morgan’s Review of ASL Implementation.

Chris Ross, Senior Policy, Projects and Participation Officer said: 

"We know there is some really great work going on around the country in terms of supporting pupils with additional support needs. But we also know this isn't the experience of everyone.

"This work will play a big part in shaping the considerations for pupil support moving forward by listening to those who have the most experience to share - pupils themselves.

"We are excited to get started on this work, working both with our own Inclusion Ambassadors as well as a host of other organisations, schools and young people across the country."

Engagement activity will begin shortly and take place across the country with young people aged 5-18 who have an additional support need and have regular engagement with pupil support staff to support their learning.

Stage two of the project, delivered by Education Scotland, will build on the findings and feedback gathered to engage with education and support staff directly and is expected to begin in the autumn.

If you are interested in participating, or would like to find out more, contact Chris Ross by email:


Get involved

Download the engagement pack to contribute to the project

Click here to download

Inclusion Ambassadors

Find out more about the work of the Inclusion Ambassadors

Click here to visit the project

Manifesto for 2021-26

Ambitious calls for change in the current parliamentary term

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News: Councils urged to keep Additional Support Needs on the agenda

Posted 10 May 2022, by Jennifer Drummond

Following the Scottish local council elections last week, the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) has urged for a renewed focus on supporting pupils with additional support needs (ASN), highlighting ongoing budget cuts and record lows of teacher numbers.

According to government statistics, just under a third of pupils across Scotland have additional support needs, including autism, dyslexia and mental health problems.

Postcode lottery funding

The Coalition analysed figures for spending on ASN pupils since 2012/13, revealing average spend per pupil fell from £4276 in the 2012/13 financial year to £3402 in 2020/21. This represents a cut of more than 20%.

The charity, which is an alliance of providers of specialist care and education to vulnerable children and young people, also pointed to disparities across council areas. Funding was just £2210 per pupil in the Scottish Borders but as high as £5901 per pupil in Shetland.

Lower than ever teacher numbers

The SCSN has also raised concerns over the continued decline in specialist teachers. From 2012-2020 full-time equivalent ASN teachers in Scotland fell from 3389, to an all-time low of 2860. This represents a cut of 15.6%.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition said:

“It is vital that those with ASN get the care and support they need, when they need it, especially as we come out of the current Covid-19 crisis.

“It is disappointing to note cuts in spending supporting those with ASN and we would urge Scotland’s newly elected councils to put the needs of vulnerable children and young people at the very heart of policy funding an commitments.

“Councils and Scottish Government must work together to provide the necessary resourcing to address the needs of those children and young people with ASN who represent some of the most vulnerable individuals in society.”

Government funding and support

The Scottish Government has defended teacher numbers, acknowledging that, while dedicated ASN specialist teacher numbers had fallen, overall teacher numbers had risen.

Figures published in December 2021 showing an increase in teacher numbers for the sixth year in a row, resulting in the lowest pupil to teacher ration since 2009.

They also highlighted additional funding available to councils to help respond to needs of young people in the area.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “All teachers provide support to pupils with additional support needs, not just ‘support for learning’ staff.

“The Scottish Government is investing £145.5 million to support education staffing in 2022-23, representing the biggest increase to support teacher recruitment since 2007.

“We also provide councils with an additional £15 million each year to help them respond to the individual needs of children and young people. This has allowed the recruitment of 1,036 extra pupil support assistants in 2021.”

New fund supports 106 young people with additional support needs to access the arts and unlock their creative potential

28 April 2022


A total of 106 young people with additional support needs have taken forward creative arts projects as a result of funding from the Access All Arts Fund, led by national charity Children in Scotland.

The fund, delivered through Creative Scotland’s Nurturing Talent Fund: New Routes programme, distributed £68,000 to young people across Scotland, supporting projects ranging from dance to drama and visual art to television.

As a result of the fund’s success, Creative Scotland will be supporting a second phase of the project from 2022-23.

A report on the first year of the Access All Arts Fund, capturing its aims, approach, impact and recommendations, is published today.

Click here to download the report

The Access All Arts Fund was established specifically to support children and young people with an additional support need or disability, a community who have experienced significant challenges during the pandemic.

A cartoon drawing of ballet shoes, drama mask, a microphone and a pencil and notebook. The Access All Arts Fund logo in the centre.

Children in Scotland recruited four children and young people with a range of additional support needs as panellists to lead the design of the fund, make decisions about funding and support creative initiatives. The panel comprised young people aged 12-25 from West Lothian, Stirling and Glasgow.

With year one of the fund successfully completed, recruitment of young people to take part in the year two panel will begin shortly.

Activity in 2022-23 will have a strong emphasis on wellbeing and a continued focus on young people as project co-designers.

Ryan Cuzen, one of the panel members who took part in the project over the past year, said:

“Having young people with lived experience of a disability or additional support needs involved in the design of funds, training programmes and opportunities is vital. It shows we are being listening to, included and our ideas and voices are being heard.”

David Mackay, Policy & Projects Manager at Children in Scotland and Access All Arts Fund project lead, said:

“It’s been fantastic to work with the young people on our design panel over the past year and to see the incredible response to the fund. The Access All Arts Fund has had a significant impact on many children and young people’s lives – helping them to improve their wellbeing, learn new skills and open up new creative opportunities. We are delighted that Creative Scotland has announced it will be supporting a second round of the fund in 2022.

“We look forward to continuing to support children and young people with additional support needs or a disability to access the arts and realise their full potential.”

Sarah Mcadam, Youth Arts Programme Manager at Creative Scotland said: “The high demand for Access All Arts in 2021 showed us the important role that arts and creativity was able to play in the lives of children and young people who were experiencing significant challenges during the pandemic.

“We’re thrilled that through renewed support, this programme will give more children and young people opportunities to lead on decision-making and access the funding they need to bring their creative ideas to life.”

Recommendations in the report on year one of the project include:

  • Creative Scotland should continue to fund Access all Arts. The fund has been successful in reaching a previously under-represented community and evaluation suggests it has had a positive impact for many young people.
  • Creative Scotland and Children in Scotland should share key learning from the project with policy leads and decision-makers, identifying opportunities to influence other initiatives designed to support children and young people’s learning and wellbeing following the pandemic.
  • In additional rounds of the fund, increased time and financial resource should go to outreach work and building relationships with organisations supporting specific communities (for example, deaf children and children and young people with a visual impairment). This would encourage a wider diversity of applications to join the design panel and an increased range of applications.

The fund was open for applications from 11 August - 13 September 2021 and received 236 submissions from children and young people aged 11 to 26.

A large number of applications included requests to purchase items ranging from drawing and painting materials to musical instruments or photographic equipment.

Funding allowed children and young people to attend music, dance or drama tuition classes, realise zine-making projects, progress their song-writing ability and learn silversmithing skills and clothing design.

Evaluation of the project concludes that the fund:

  • Provided opportunities for children and young people to explore their unique personal interests and passions
  • Gave them autonomy and agency to develop projects and learn new skills while supporting their wellbeing
  • Created opportunities for them to overcome barriers and try new creative experiences and, in some cases, supported career development opportunities.


Images available on request.
Media contact: Chris Small,

Notes for editors

Project background

In 2021 Children in Scotland was one of five organisations selected by Creative Scotland to deliver the Nurturing Talent Fund: New Routes programme.

The programme was created to test new approaches to support children and young people to apply for arts funding, in order to reach artists who were under-represented in the existing Nurturing Talent funding awards.
These communities included:

  • Young artists from care-experienced backgrounds
  • Young artists from rural communities and local authorities we get fewer applications from, specifically: Angus, West Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire, and Fife
  • Young disabled artists, or young people who need additional support.

Click here for more information about the Nurturing Talent Fund: New Routes programme

Children in Scotland

Giving all children in Scotland an equal chance to flourish is at the heart of everything we do.

By bringing together a network of people working with and for children, alongside children and young people themselves, we offer a broad, balanced and independent voice. We create solutions, provide support and develop positive change across all areas affecting children in Scotland.

We do this by listening, gathering evidence, and applying and sharing our learning, while always working to uphold children’s rights. Our range of knowledge and expertise means we can provide trusted support on issues as diverse as the people we work with and the varied lives of children and families in Scotland.

Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland distributing funding provided by the Scottish Government and The National Lottery. Further information at Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Learn more about the value of art and creativity in Scotland and join in at

Access All Arts Fund

Find out more about the first year of the Fund in this final report

Click here to read

Find out more about our projects

Browse and learn about all our current and past projects

Click here to search our projects

Partner: Creative Scotland

The Access All Arts Fund is part of Creative Scotland's Nurturing Talent Fund New Route Programme.

Click here to find out more