Building a network of Inclusion Ambassadors
Meaningful participation and engagement of young people with additional support needs: Resources for Education, Learning & Support.
In partnership with Children in Scotland, Enquire has been supporting the Inclusion Ambassadors since 2019. In this time, we have learnt a great deal about supporting young people with additional support needs to share their views.
The Inclusion Ambassadors have so far engaged directly with parliamentarians, decision-makers and the Scottish Government. Whilst national representation is important, we also recognise the value and the impact of local improvements and change. The national group is also not representative of all children and young people with additional support needs in Scotland.
We therefore believe it is important to create more opportunities for a wider and more representative group of children to share their views about additional support for learning and want to share our learning to help others develop similar, more localised groups.
We know there are already similar groups across the country and an increasing desire among practitioners to replicate these models. With that in mind, this page is intended to help provide an overview of how professionals working with pupils with additional support needs can help create a link between our national group and other local and regional groups.
You can access the full resource pack – which offers more guidance, support and learning – here.
Children’s rights and participation
Our work with the Inclusion Ambassadors is embedded within our rights-based approach to participation and engagement. Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that all children and young people have a right to be heard in matters that affect them. Projects like the Inclusion Ambassadors support this right to be upheld.
We use the UN Committee’s definition of participation and engagement as a starting point. It reads:
“Ongoing processes, which include information sharing and dialogue between children and adults based on mutual respect, and in which children can learn how their views and those of adults are taken into account and shape the outcome of such processes”
It is important to remember that there has to be a mutual benefit for all people engaging. The process should be about all parties learning together and sharing their views.
We asked the Inclusion Ambassadors, and those who have worked with them, about the value of the group. They told us:
“Sometimes I am not confident but this proves I can believe in myself”
“It makes you believe in yourself, I used to not speak but am now more confident”
“It will help lots of people”
“A voice to talk about our experiences and to benefit people in the future”
“The Inclusion Ambassadors involvement in the review and thereafter has been essential. The commentary they provided fronts up all the review recommendations and their vision, created in response, should be the test by which all future developments are measured”
Angela Morgan, Chair of the Independent Review of the Implementation of
Additional Support for Learning in Scotland 2019 – 2020
Setting up a group
The Inclusion Ambassadors is a national group with the aim of feeding into national decision-making about additional support for learning and education. The current group has members from 20 local authority areas. This allows us to make sure we are hearing from people across the country and taking account of different issues.
Members of the Inclusion Ambassadors are not representatives of their school or their region. However, ensuring representation from across a range of local authority areas facilitates sharing of a range of experiences and within a wide variety of circumstances and contexts. In so far as possible, we ensure the group discussions are based around their interests and demonstrate a truly young person-led approach. The group should not be tailored to the adults who deliver services or make decisions.
It is important when setting up your own group that you are clear about its scope and purpose. Some things to consider include:
- Is your group tied to a school or region? If so, will this directly impact the focus of work?
- Are you aiming your group at working with young people who have a specific additional support need or receive a specific type of support?
- Is the group time-limited? Or does it have an open-ended timeline?
- Is your group feeding into a specific group or committee within the school, local authority or region?
- Will meetings take place online or in person? Will it be both?
You can find more specific information and support about setting up your own group here:
Our overall aim is to support the Inclusion Ambassadors to reflect and share their opinions about issues important to them, relating to their educational experience. To do this we encourage each member to participate in a way that is meaningful but that also works for them.
We recognise that there are lots of different ways to support participation and you will be the experts in knowing how best to do this with the pupils your support. However, you can find our thoughts on what we have found out when establishing and working with the Inclusion Ambassadors here:
Discussion topics – linking up with the national group
We would suggest that topics be led by the members of the group as far as is possible. However, this may look different for different groups.
You may want to ask people what they want to cover, but you might also use what you hear the group talk about to inform future sessions.
It is important to understand your role as an adult and the knowledge you bring. You may know about specific opportunities and bring these to the group, for example. However, when doing so, ensure they are in line with what the group is working on or want to discuss.
We have identified three main routes for generating discussion topics and linking up with the national Inclusion Ambassadors group: areas chosen by the national Inclusion Ambassadors group, using Inclusion Ambassadors resources as a starting point – this includes their vision statement which is a basis for a lot of our work – and areas chosen by your own group.
You can find the latest discussion topics and Inclusion Ambassadors resources here.
Whilst these topics are intended as a guide, you may wish to start with what the group tell you and what they highlight they want to speak about. It is important to develop the topics you want to talk about over time. Whilst it may feel counter-intuitive to begin without a list of topics to focus on, it is important the topics for discussion are relevant to the children and young people involved. We know people are more likely to
share ideas and suggestions as relationships develop and as such would suggest working towards agreeing a list of topics over the first few meetings.
Depending on the group of children and young people, you may also need to develop plans based on themes that you hear across different discussions, not just on what people explicitly say they want to
Making a difference
The Inclusion Ambassadors group provides a national platform where children and young people can share their experiences of school and the support they receive. However, it is important for more pupils to be included in communicating their experiences to decision-makers.
“We need to create positive stories about pupils with additional support needs rather than focus on the negatives”
By creating a regional or local Inclusion Ambassador group – or by using this resource to direct some of the work you’re doing with a pre-existing group – you can help add to the evidence we have about additional support for learning and the experiences of children and young people.
Keeping in touch
Please keep in touch with us and share your work through one of
the following ways:
- Tell us directly what your group has been discussing. You can do this by emailing us at:
email@example.com or by sharing your work on social media using the
- Use our online form to comment directly on the topics the Inclusion Ambassadors
have been addressing. By doing so, the voices of your group will be shared with
decision makers – either through our reporting or as a direct response to a
- Have the voices and experiences of your group published on reach.scot. You can do
this via the Get Involved page.
- Keep up to date with our quarterly newsletter, where we will share the main talking
topics for the national Inclusion Ambassadors group.
- Attend one of our webinars about what the national Inclusion Ambassador group is
doing, future topics for discussion and for any further help you may want. Register
your interest by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.