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Getting it right for every child … in school.

Understanding the lingo

It’s easy for people who work in the children’s sector to forget that the daily language they use is gobbledygook to most parents. It’s all too easy to start using shorthand –  (recognise any of these? GIRFEC, ASL, CSP’s, SHANARRI, CfE,)* and forget these mean nothing to most parents until they are sitting in a room with professionals waiting to find out about their child’s needs or how they are being supported.

As well as knowing what these actually mean it can be confusing getting your head round how the different approaches fit together.  One area causing confusion is how Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and the additional support for learning (ASL) framework work together. So, here’s a few key points:

What is Getting it Right for Every Child?

GIRFEC is the way we try to support all children and young people in Scotland. It allows organisations who work for and with children and their families provide a consistent, supportive approach for all children. It helps practitioners focus on what makes a positive difference for children and young people – and how they can act to deliver improvements.

A standard definition of wellbeing has been developed- that children and young people should be Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included. These wellbeing indicators (often called the SHANARRI indicators) are considered necessary for a child or young person to reach their potential. When thinking about a child’s wellbeing, professionals will use the SHANARRI indicators (see the wellbeing wheel) to decide whether support is needed and what type of support would help the child.

From 2018 some parts of GIRFEC will have legal duties attached from the Children and Young People Act 2014. There will be a single planning approach for children who need additional support from services (called a Child’s Plan) and a single point of contact for every child (called Named Person). These will probably become  a duty in 2018. Some local authorities are using Child’s Plans and have a Named Person approach in place.

From 2018 there will also be a duty to consider if the sharing of information will promote, support or safeguard a child’s or young person wellbeing.

What is the “additional support for learning framework”?

This is an easy way of describing the way in which schools, local authorities and other relevant bodies support children who require additional support for learning. The framework was introduced through the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004.  Additional support for learning  doesn’t just apply to children who have long-term learning difficulties or disabilities. Children can need support for many reasons (ill-health, being bullied, being particularly able, being a young carer or young parent, etc) . Some children may need a lot of support all the way through school. Others will only need a small amount for a short time. Find out more about What Additional support might my child receive?

How do they work together?

At the heart of both GIRFEC and the additional support for learning framework is partnership with parents and putting children’s wellbeing at the centre of any decision about their lives. Although GIRFEC is much wider than just education, a child’s wellbeing plays a huge part in how well they do in school. For some children education will not be the priority issue (for example if professionals are worried about the child’s welfare) but the support that the child needs to access their education should always be considered as part of the bigger picture.

In practical terms, teachers will often be the first professional to recognise concerns about a child’s wellbeing. They are also well-placed to co-ordinate support or make referrals to agencies that can help the child and the whole family.

If a child requires a Child’s Plan, any action for supporting the child in school should be included. If the child has complex needs and has a Co-ordinated Support Plan, this information should form part of the Child’s Plan. Any Child’s Plan meeting should include representatives from education to ensure that the impact of any issues on  their learning are considered.

GIRFEC and ASL in action

Primary School – Mrs Nicols and Jamie

Mrs Nicols teaches P4 in a mainstream school. In her class is a pupil called Jamie. Jamie has been struggling  with his reading, spelling and writing since P1. He has been receiving support through small reading groups and paired reading. Jamie’s P3 teacher had spoken to Jamie’s mum and the school support for learning teacher about Jamie being assessed for dyslexia.

Jaime was diagnosed with dyslexia at the beginning of P4 by the support for learning teacher. Mrs Nicols set up a learning plan highlighting the support he needed and Jamie seemed to cope well with this in school.  However, since Christmas time Mrs Nicols had seen Jamie’s behaviour deteriorate. Jamie had stopped playing in the playground and was instead spending a lot of time on his own. Following a number of incidents where he lashed out at other pupils, she asked Jamie’s mum to come in to discuss what they could do to help him. At the meeting they discussed whether Jamie’s behaviour was related to how he felt about school. Jamie’s mum got upset and mentioned that she had been struggling a bit at home after her marriage had broken down. Jaime was struggling with his dad not being around as much and the family had been finding things hard financially.  They discussed how the school might help Jamie manage his behaviour. Mrs Nicols suggested that they let Jamie know he could come and talk to her about how he was feeling if he felt he wasn’t coping during the school day. With Jamie’s mum permission Mrs Nicols also suggested she say to Jamie he could attend the nurture room at playtimes and lunchtimes if he felt he needed to.   Mrs Nicols and Jamie’s mum agreed to meet after a couple of weeks to see if things had improved.

Secondary School – Mr Marshal and Lena

Lena was in S3. Lena was a quite a shy pupil who had been doing well in school until the middle of S3. Lena started leaving school early and her marks in class assessments had dropped. As Lena’s Named Person, Mr Marshal asked Lena to come and see him to discuss whether everything was ok. At first Lena said that everything was ok but after talking about why she had been leaving school early Lena explained that a small group of girls who she had previously been friends with had been bullying her in school and online.  She also said that she often felt like running away so she didn’t have to come into school and that she had’t told her mum about what was going on. Lena also said she was worried as she had missed a lot of school work and didn’t know how to catch up. Mr Marshal identified concerns for Lena relating to her feeling safe and included at school and continuing with her previous level of achievement.

Mr Marshal reassured Lena that he was going to take the issue seriously and asked what she wanted to happened. Lena said she really wanted the bullying to stop and to tell her mum. She also wanted help to catch up with her work.  Mr Marshal said that if it was ok he would arrange a meeting with Lena mum where they could tell her what had been going on and explain that Lena had been missing school. After talking to Lena and her mum Mr Marshal made arrangements for Lena to receive copies of the work she had missed.  With Lena’s permission Mr Marshall asked the three girls who had been bullying her to come to talk to him and explained how their behaviour was causing Lena distress. They agreed that the bullying would stop and that the three girls would apologise to Lena in person. The school were planning to do a assembly around bullying and so Mr Marshall did not feel any further action was needed. Mr Marshal checked in with Lena few weeks later to make sure she was ok.

More information

Find more GIRFEC case studies on the Scottish Government website. 

*For information:

  • Getting it Right for Every Child
  • Additional Support for Learning
  • Co-ordinated Support Plan
  • Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible, Included
  • Curriculum for Excellence
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