Understanding the basics 1 – What is additional support for learning?

This is the first of a series of blogs looking at some of the key information about how children are supported in school.

Look out for future posts about:

  • How does Getting it Right for Every Child and Additional Support for Learning fit together?
  • Assessment
  • Staged Interventions – What’s it all about?
  • What does the named person mean for children with additional support needs?

Pupil sitting in assembleyUnderstanding the basics? What is additional support for learning?

Recently we’ve spoken to families who had received a letter from their school telling them their child was receiving additional support and weren’t sure what it meant and were worried they hadn’t known about it before then.

This served as a useful reminder to us that many parents, even those whose child’s needs are known from a young age, may not be familiar with the language of “additional support for learning”.

In response we put together some basic information about additional support and shared this with parents through the National Parent Forum Scotland but we know this doesn’t reach everybody. Here are the main messages for parents:

What does additional support for learning mean?

The terms “additional support for learning” and “additional support needs” can be confusing. Many people think they only apply to children with long-term learning difficulties or disabilities but children can need support for many other reasons. These include:

    • Difficulty in controlling behaviour
    • Missing school because of an illness or long-term condition
    • Having a physical disability
    • Being a young carer
    • Communication difficulties
    • Being particularly able
    • Changing school a lot
    • Being looked after or in care
    • Having a difficult family situation
    • Suffering a bereavement
    • Being bullied

Some children need only a small amount of support for a short time. Other children may need a lot of support for a longer period of time.

How is additional support provided?

Pupil thinkingThere is no one way to support children. How support is provided in the class and wider school will depend on an individual child’s needs. Support is usually provided through the normal learning and teaching that takes place in class however additional support might include:

  • Short bursts of intensive work, 1 to 1 or in a group, with either a teacher or learning support assistant
  • Working with a child on a specific learning programme
  • Adapting the classroom environment to suit a child’s needs
  • Providing coping strategies or a quiet space to help children with their behaviour
  • A teacher adapting how he or she teaches a lesson
  • Adapting learning materials to a child’s needs
  • Using special equipment or IT

Sometimes different types of support, particularly behaviour support, have to be tried and tested to see which ones work best for the child.

 Here’s a few examples of what support might look like

  • Two young girls at a computerJennifer, who is 7, has been struggling with reading, writing and spelling.  Jennifer is part of a paired reading group which matches her with a child who is confident in reading. She receives support through a targeted spelling programme which she receives, for an hour twice a week outside of class, along with a small number of other children. She also receives less homework than other pupils so she can concentrate on the spelling words from the targeted programme at home. The school has identified that her confidence has been affected and is encouraging her to recognise her improvements over time and appreciate her strengths in other areas of the curriculum. The school discussed the support she receives and her progress at parents’ evening.
  • Dan is 9 and lives with his granny who is his main carer. Dan started living with his granny when his Web-PG-case-study-Jack-600x400-thumbnailBWmum wasn’t able to look after him. Dan gets very anxious and this means he can find it difficult to behave and concentrate in school. Dan’s teacher is aware of the situation at home and talks regularly with his granny about the support he might need. Dan is part of a small group of children who get help with their reading to help strengthen his learning as his first two years in primary were interrupted. Dan has an individual behaviour plan which outlines the type of situations that he struggles with and different strategies to help him.
  • Stephen is 14 and has autism. He attends his local mainstream secondary school. Stephen has an individual learning plan which sets out his needs and support he should have including details of his sensory and communication preferences. The school has shared this with all his teachers. Stephen is allowed out of class early to get to his next lesson so he can avoid busy corridors when classes change. Stephen’s guidance teacher arranged for him to have a time out card which allows him to leave the classroom if he feels overwhemed. He sits in the library until he feels able to return to class.

What can I do if I have concerns about my child’s education or support for learning?

The important thing to do in the first instance is talk to you child’s class, guidance or support for learning teacher if you have any concerns. They can talk you through how your child is progressing and how they are supported in class.

Where can I find out more?

You can call Enquire for advice and information on 0345 123 2303.  Here’s how talking to us helped one parent:

“Enquire helped me decide on going ahead with requesting an assessment for my child re his education. I was not aware that as a parent I could request this service”.

If you are looking for further information about additional support for learning, contact the helpline or email us (info@enquire.org.uk). Our website has lots of information including our Parents’ Guide to Additional Support for Learning and 17 factsheets on different topics related to additional support for learning including who provides supportexclusions, school attendance, resolving disagreementslearning plans and much more.


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Helpline: 0345 123 2303

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