Relationships 'at heart' of what pupils with ASN need

Additional support needs funding requires more scrutiny – but author of landmark review says this is not the only big ASN issue

Angela Morgan

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Earlier this year, Angela Morgan’s review of additional support for learning (ASL) was published. It was followed last week by the Scottish government publishing an action plan and accepting the majority of the recommendations.

One charity responding said there was much in the plan to be commended but added that vital resourcing was “fundamentally lacking”. Writing exclusively for Tes Scotland, Ms Morgan responds to the plans.

Overall, I welcome the acceptance of the review recommendations and the commitment to change by the partners evidenced by the work already done on a detailed action plan. Also, I had the opportunity during the course of the review process to meet with members of the Additional Support for Learning Implementation Group and recognise the experience and expertise of that group in the crucial monitoring role they will now play.

Firstly, a comment on the issue of resources. The review parameter for this was to consider the issue within existing resources and the focus of the comments in the report reflect this restriction with a recommendation for Audit Scotland to include the findings in their focused scrutiny of ASL due to start this year.

I note in the action plan that Audit Scotland are currently reviewing their programme of work and I would be concerned to see their focus on ASL deprioritised as this would signal yet again one of the headline conclusions from the review: “…the evidence that emerges from this Review affirms that Additional Support for Learning is not visible or equally valued within Scotland’s Education system”.

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Without underestimating their importance, I would emphasise that resources are not the only issue. What I believe is most important now is the determination of measures of progress being made on the recommendations.

These must ensure that the current disconnect between words and actions which are seen and felt by children and young people, parents and carers and the professionals who work directly with them isn’t continued.

I stated in my concluding comments to the review that: “Equally important is the imperative that at all levels, those that lead the change stay grounded by continually testing the gap between intention and reality through listening to the people who are at the heart of implementation: children and young people, parents and carers, school staff and other professionals. That feedback loop must be embedded to close the current gap between intention and reality in the implementation of the additional support for learning legislation, thus fully enabling the inclusion of all children and young people who face barriers to achieving their potential.”

Measurement of progress on the recommendation of measurement of success beyond narrow attainment and exam results should have a strong influence on how this feedback loop is framed, also with reference to an early comment in the report that: “…the true measure of inclusion is not through external and objective criteria, it is in the child or young person’s own experience and how they feel. Currently, far too many children and young people report feeling isolated, lonely, rejected, sometimes actively disliked or uncared for.”

All of which emphasises that relationships between children and young people and teachers; teachers and parents and carers; teachers and other professionals; as well as teachers’ relationships with each other, and with their leaders, lie at the heart of the change needed.

Angela Morgan led the independent review of the implementation of additional support for learning in schools. She is writing here in a personal capacity

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