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Taking steps towards a more inclusive education system

Today is a significant day in the recognition of rights of children and young people with additional support needs, writes Cat Thomson

As of today, 10 January 2018, the rights of children and young people aged 12-15 have been extended to give them many of the same rights as their parents and carers.

The extension of rights, as part of the Education (Scotland) Act 2016, means that from today, children and young people with capacity will have the opportunity to further influence decisions about their education and support.

Specifically, once children reach their 12th birthday they will now have the right to ask for their needs to be identified, have input into plans and decision-making around the type of support they may receive, have access to advocates to support them at meetings when exercising their rights, and be more involved in resolving disagreements about their support.

The Scottish Government's intention in delivering this Act is to empower children between the age of 12 and 15 to ensure they are able to influence decisions about their education and support including the identification, planning and review of their needs.

This is a welcome move. At Enquire, we know from our work with children and young people how important it is that they feel genuinely involved and listened to by the professionals supporting them and how much this can influence whether they feel school is a negative or positive experience.

These new rights will be particularly helpful to children whose parents are not always able to act on their behalf ,such as looked after children and young carers.

It is also important to note here that there may be some children and young people who do not have capacity to make their own decisions or where making use of their rights would have a negative impact on their wellbeing. Safeguards have been put in place to protect these children and we hope that these will be carried out by professionals who really know the child well, in line with the new guidance on this. The safeguards should still ensure that when a child does not have capacity or is unable to fully use their rights, decisions are still made in the best interest of the child by someone who is close to them.

Ultimately, the extension of rights is recognition that children and young people need to be, and should be, involved in decisions that directly impact on them. It provides an opportunity for those who work with and support children with additional support needs, to reflect on their practice and consider whether they are routinely listening to and involving children with additional support needs in the decision making process. If not, then there is now a legal requirement to change.

With this in mind, we support the Scottish Government’s creation of a new children’s service, My Rights My Say. This service, which will be delivered in partnership by Children in Scotland Enquire, Partners in Advocacy and Cairn Legal, is designed to support children and young people in understanding and accessing their rights and having their views heard.

Through My Rights My Say, and through Reach, our website for children and young people, we are delighted to offer advice and information to children to help them understand and use their rights. We can also offer advice and support for parents, carers and professionals through the Enquire website and helpline.

There will be much to be done in supporting professionals, parents, carers, children and young people alike to ensure their rights are realised and fully supported. But today is a step towards ensuring a more inclusive and equal education system.

Cat Thomson is Enquire's Senior Information Officer


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

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

Visit the website