The quality of learning for children with additional support needs (ASN) is overly reliant on “committed individuals”, according to an independent review.
The report on additional support for learning (ASL) by Angela Morgan, former chief executive of youth charity Includem, says that legislation designed to protect and improve the educational experience of ASN youngsters is not consistently implemented across the country.
The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 places duties on local authorities to identify, meet and review the needs of children and young people.
The report says: “The evidence that emerges from this review affirms that additional support for learning is not visible or equally valued within Scotland’s education system.
“Consequently, the implementation of additional support for learning legislation is over-dependent on committed individuals, is fragmented, inconsistent and is not ensuring that all children and young people who need additional support are being supported to flourish and fulfil their potential.”
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Concerns are also raised about an increased number of youngsters being identified as having ASN at the same time as a surge in poverty and inequality, which has affected support services.
Helping children with additional support needs
The report's recommendations include improving the support available to teachers and school staff, directly involving children and their families in decisions around their learning, and greater celebration of the achievements of ASN pupils.
Education secretary John Swinney said: “I welcome this report and thank Angela Morgan and all those who contributed to this important work.
“The Scottish government, in partnership with [local authorities' body] Cosla, will now give careful consideration to its recommendations and our full joint response will be published in the autumn.
“The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on our children and young people, their families and those who support them."
Mr Swinney added: "It is vital that we take account of these findings within our plans to transition back to a greater level of face-to-face education and build on the guidance already published to support this.
“We are determined to improve the educational experiences of children and young people with additional support needs.
“We recognise that we need to do more and will use the findings of Angela Morgan’s review to build on our progress in this area.”
Stephen McCabe, Cosla’s children and young people spokesman, said: “We welcome the publication of Angela Morgan’s report on additional support for learning.
“Cosla would like to express thanks for the work that has gone into this, and to the children and families who have been involved over the past months.
“The Cosla Children and Young People Board will have the opportunity to fully discuss and consider the recommendations in the report over the summer and look to work collaboratively with Scottish government and partners where improvements or changes are needed to the way the system supports children with additional support needs.”