Enquire responded to the recent call for evidence from the Scottish Parliament’s Education, Children and Young People Committee as part of their Inquiry into Additional Support for Learning (ASL) highlighting what parents, carers, children and young people have told us about their experiences.
Our response, written in collaboration with our partners in the My Rights, My Say service, shares evidence from families and young people in response to the three main areas of the inquiry:
- The presumption of mainstreaming
- The impact of covid-19
- Dispute resolution.
The presumption of mainstreaming
This is the legal assumption that all children in Scotland should be educated in mainstream schools, unless certain exceptions apply. You can read more about this law on our Choosing a school page.
The committee were interested to know how this is working in practice. Enquire’s feedback expressed support for inclusive education and highlighted the benefits it can have for all pupils. At the same time, we highlighted the well-documented issues in the delivery of a truly inclusive education experience for those with additional support needs in mainstream schools.
We noted the diversity of provision that’s available for children and young people, particularly the use of additional support units, bases and hubs at mainstream schools. We suggest that the presumption of mainstreaming legislation, set up with a clearer distinction between mainstream and special schools than is currently reflected in practice across the country, is revisited.
Enquire also told the inquiry that improvements could be made that are not necessarily about the presumption of mainstreaming itself, but more about the processes around how placement decisions are made. We explained key changes could vastly improve the experiences of families going through difficult decisions about where their child should go to school.
The impact of covid-19
In this section, we pointed the inquiry towards Enquire’s previous response to the Scottish Government’s Covid recovery plans. We share that we continue to hear about many long-term negative impacts from the pandemic, including delays in identifying pupils’ needs, an ongoing impact from unsupported transitions, pupils who have remained out of full time education since the school closures, and increases in school-related anxiety and mental health needs.
We also highlight the missed opportunity to improve the education provision available to all children and young people who aren’t able to physically attend school, particularly in relation to online learning opportunities. While there are many pockets of good practice, we still regularly hear from families whose children are not able to access education remotely.
There are many routes under additional support for learning law that parents, carers, children and young people can use to help resolve problems that arise between home and school, outlined in the Working with school and solving problems section of our website. The inquiry was interested in knowledge of what these processes are, experiences of using them, and also generally how young people and their parents and carers are included in decisions about their additional support.
We emphasise the importance of children and young people being involved in decisions about their own education, including the provision of learning support. Whilst there is evidence of good practice across the country, more can be done to embed this approach. We hope the UNCRC Scotland Bill, which received royal assent on 16 January, will be a significant driver in ensuring this happens more consistently across the country.
We also explain that we regularly hear from parents and carers who do not feel fully included in decisions. A high proportion of enquiries to our helpline relate to communication and relationship issues between home and school.
In relation to the dispute resolution processes available, we note some processes could be made more accessible, particularly for those who do not have internet access, for parents with additional support needs, and for families where English is an additional language. We also highlighted there are very few advocacy and support services across Scotland for parents and carers with additional support needs. These often can help support families and avoid the need for using more formal processes.
Hannah Gray, Enquire’s Senior Information and Advice Officer said:
“We hope this Inquiry will build on the evidence provided from Enquire, My Rights, My Say and other services like ours, as well as the voices of pupils themselves through groups such as the Inclusion Ambassadors, to develop policy and practice which truly promotes inclusive learning environments as well as consistent and effective support for learning for all those who need it.”
The Inclusion Ambassadors are a group of secondary-school aged young people with a range of additional support needs, who share their experience of being a pupil in Scotland. Click here to find out more about the work of the Inclusion Ambassadors (link https://childreninscotland.org.uk/inclusion-ambassadors/)
As part of their work the Ambassadors have created a number of practical resources for use by teachers and education professionals. Visit the Inclusion Ambassador pages on Enquire. (link https://enquire.org.uk/professionals/inclusion-ambassadors/)