Scottish pupils now have the most rights in Europe when it comes to their entitlement to ask for support in school and be involved in decisions about their education.
Amendments to Scotland's Additional Support for Learning Act 2004 come in to force today, extending rights to children aged 12-15 that were previously only available to their parents or carers.
Now, when children reach their 12th birthday, they will have the right to ask their school or local authority to find out if they need extra support; have a say in plans made about the support they may get; advocacy to ensure their views are shared and taken into account and legal representation at tribunals; and be actively involved in resolving disagreements about their support
A new children's service called My Rights My Say has also been created in Scotland to make sure children know about and understand their rights and are able to access advocacy and legal representation where needed.
The news comes, however, amid concerns that spending to support children with additional support needs (ASN) in school has been slashed in recent years, at the same time as numbers are rising.
Statistics from the Scottish government published last month show the number of pupils with Additional Support Needs (ASN) is at a record high of 183,491 – an increase of over 55 per cent since 2012.
Meanwhile, in May last year, a poll by the ENABLE Scotland charity found 70 per cent of pupils with ASN said they lacked support while 94 per cent of parents felt schools were not getting enough resources.
Scottish teaching union the EIS said that it welcomed the extension of rights for children with ASN but added enabling children to exercise these rights would require investment.
There were already "serious concerns" around the workload associated with meeting children’s needs, including multi-agency Child's Plan meetings, said EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan.
Mr Flanagan added: "Although we welcome extended rights, we expect the Scottish Government to recognise that the realisation of such rights cannot happen without resourcing.”
Children’s organisation Children in Scotland (CIS) welcomed the move to increase the rights of ASN children aged 12-15, saying children with additional needs needed to feel involved in decisions about them and listened to if they were to feel positive about school.
Meanwhile, Dr Adam Boddison, chief executive of England's National Association for Special Educational Needs, said the extension marked "an exciting milestone in the real engagement with all children in their own education" which was also the aspiration of the SEND code of practice in England.
"It will require commitment from schools and local authorities to enable children with the full range of additional support needs to exercise their new rights;” he said.
"There now also exists the chance for change by really listening and responding to the aspirations of children; focusing support in such a way as to demonstrate a direct link to these aspirations.
“Hopefully, these amendments will strengthen the intention across the education system to operate in the spirit of doing with children rather than doing to them."
The education secretary John Swinney, who launched the amendments during a visit to Stirling’s Wallace High, said he was already proud of Scotland’s record on inclusion but the new measure went even further when it came to supporting children with ASN.
He added: “It is an extremely fitting start to the Year of Young People that children will now be more involved in the decisions that affect their education and be given a stronger voice on issues which affect their lives.”