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Coronavirus and additional support for learning

Repeating a school year

Teachers, schools and local authorities know that all children’s education will have been affected by coronavirus and the school closures over the last year. This will be informing a big part of how they support your child with their learning moving forwards.

However, some parents and carers of children with additional support needs might still be worried about how the last year of school closures has impacted their child’s learning and be wondering if their child repeating a school year might be an option.

Here is some information about the laws and guidance in this area:

  • Repeating a school year is not covered in the law, so there is no legal ‘right’ to request this, and no formal process for doing so. It is up to individual schools and local authorities whether to support this kind of arrangement for a child.
  • Repeating a school year is unusual because the curriculum is designed to be flexible enough to meet the needs of pupils learning at a range of levels within the same year group. It is also uncommon because schools should always be considering children’s whole wellbeing, including their peer group and friendships, and repeating a year can sometimes have an impact on this.
  • Schools and local authorities have a duty to provide pupils with the support they need to fully benefit from their education, so it is expected that pupils should get the help they need to do their best within each school year.
  • Although repeating a year is very unusual, it can happen where everyone agrees that it is in the individual child’s best interests. The local authority and school should consider each request for repeating a year on its own merits and take account of the child’s individual needs and circumstances, and the views of you, your child and the professionals supporting your child.

The first step if you are worried about your child’s progress over the last year would be to get in touch with your child’s school. You can ask to discuss the support that is in place, and your concerns about next year. Hopefully, their approach to meeting your child’s individual needs will reassure you. They should be able to set out how they intend to support your child, along with their peers, to progress to the next year of school despite a difficult year for many children’s learning.

If you are still worried after speaking to the school, and feel repeating a year may be the only way to meet your child’s needs, you could put this in writing to your local authority.

If you decide to make a request to the local authority, they are likely to want to know things like:

• the reasons why you feel repeating a year would be the best way to meet your child’s needs
• what your child would get out of repeating a year that they could not get if they progress with their peers
• what the impact would be on their social and emotional wellbeing
• what your child’s views are.

It would be best to put this request in a recordable format (for example an email) and let your child’s school know you are getting in touch with the local authority (you may wish to copy them into your email).

If your request is refused, there is no legal right of appeal. However, you could consider requesting mediation. This would give you the opportunity to discuss the issues and try to find a way forward. See more about this in our factsheet on ‘Mediation’ or contact our helpline for further advice.

In the meantime, you can try to use the remainder of this school year to make some positive progress in planning what support your child will need to get back on track with their learning. It may be worth talking to your child’s school about what they could put in place to help your child prepare for next year, and to make sure that support will be in place for them.

Speaking to the school or requesting mediation will not prevent you from being able to take other steps to raise your concerns, but it would mean that if you do not get the outcome you are hoping for, you and your child will have been able to make the most of the time available to get supports in place and plan ahead for next year.

Leaving school can be a worrying and stressful time in normal circumstances. Due to coronavirus, this process has been made harder for young people, parents and schools. It is possible that planning for your child’s transition out of high school has been delayed or significantly affected by the pandemic, for example if you were not able to have planning meetings during the lockdown or your child hasn’t yet been able to visit the places they might be moving on to.

As with repeating a school year at any other time, it is uncommon, but in some rare cases a young person can stay on for an additional year of high school. Local authorities have the power to offer an additional ‘seventh’ year of high school education, but they do not have any legal responsibility to do this. It is up to individual local authorities and schools to consider the young person’s individual needs and circumstances, and whether they would support this arrangement.

It is important to start by speaking to the school and any other professionals who support your child about what their options are. Transition planning meetings can still happen via phone or video call, and you and your child can still get advice from places like Skills Development Scotland, social work, colleges and universities about what would be available for them if they left school after S6.

If, after weighing up the options, you and your child feel strongly that staying on for an additional year would be in their best interests, a good first step would be to talk to the school about this, and then contact the person responsible for additional support for learning in the local authority. You should be clear about the benefits to your child of staying on at school. The local authority is unlikely to agree to your request if it is a way of delaying your child from leaving school or due to a lack of suitable places for them to move on to, and they would be in the same position a year from now.

See the sections above for more about what to include in a request, and what you can do if it is refused. There are also some links below to further sources of information and advice about post-school transitions.

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