Moving to Scotland

Moving to Scotland

Moving to a new country and education system can be a worrying and busy time for families with a child with additional support needs.

Below we have explained the key information you need if your family is moving to Scotland. This includes how education and support work in Scotland, and what you can do to help get everything arranged for your child’s move.

What does the law say about children who need extra support at school in Scotland?

The law in Scotland that covers support in schools and nurseries is the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, as amended. It is often referred to as ‘the ASL Act’.

The ASL Act says that a child has ‘additional support needs’ if they need extra or different help compared to other children their age in their local area. It says that local authorities must give each child with additional support needs the help they need to fully benefit from their education. It doesn’t say how much or what type of support each child should get, because every child’s situation is different.

The law also says that children and young people can have additional support needs for any reason. This means that a pupil doesn’t need a diagnosis to be able to get the help they need at school or nursery. This is a bit different from many other countries, for example in England where they talk about ‘special educational needs’ (SEN).

Our page What the law says about additional support for learning explains more.

What support will my child get?

Children with additional support needs are entitled to support that meets their individual needs, so they can get the most from their learning. Your child’s new school and local authority will work with you, your child and any other professionals needed to identify your child’s needs, plan the right support for them and keep this support under review.

The new school and local authority do not have to deliver the same support your child had in their previous school. However, they should take account of any information you provide to help decide what support to provide. For example, they should look at information about your child’s needs, the results of any recent assessments, and details of how they’ve been supported in school up until now.

  • Identifying and assessing your child’s needs

    Factsheet explaining what local authorities, schools and nurseries must do to identify your child’s support needs, and your rights to request assessments of their needs.

  • Planning your child’s support

    This factsheet explains the different ways that your child’s support might be planned, including descriptions of the types of written plans that might be used.

How can I arrange the right school placement for my child?

Scotland is divided up into 32 local authorities which are responsible for organising the education for children in their area. The local authority usually divides cities, towns and country areas into ‘catchment areas’. Children living in a catchment area usually go to the same local school.

Most children with additional support needs attend their local catchment school, with support. In some cases, if it is agreed a child’s needs cannot be met at their local school, the local authority will place them at a different school. There is also an option for parents or carers to make ‘a placing request’ to a school of their choice.

Local catchment schools that most children attend are called ‘mainstream schools’. There are also ‘special schools’ which cater for children with additional support needs, and some mainstream schools also have specialist support bases or units.  

If your child attended a special school before they moved to Scotland, this does not necessarily mean they will definitely be offered a place in a special school or unit in Scotland. However, your local authority should take into account any information you provide about your child and how they were supported before you came to Scotland.

Our School placements factsheet explains much more about how placements work in Scotland.

  • School placements

    Factsheet explaining the different types of schools that pupils with additional support needs might attend, how school placements are usually made, tips on choosing a school. and your rights to make a placing request to a school of your choice.

We’re moving from England – what will happen with my child’s EHCP?

Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) are not used in Scotland, and there is no direct equivalent type of plan. Your child’s new school or local authority should take into account all the information in this plan, but they do not have to follow any agreements or support strategies in it.

There is one legal plan in Scottish education, called a co-ordinated support plan (CSP). There are some similarities with EHCPs, but also key differences. For example, a CSP is not needed for a child to be able to go to a special school, or to receive a certain type or amount of support. You can read about the criteria for CSPs and how they are used on our page Co-ordinated support plans.

If you feel your child may meet the criteria for a CSP, this is something you can discuss with the school or local authority when you are planning your move to Scotland.

You can find out more about other types of support plans used in Scottish schools in our Planning your child’s support factsheet.

  • Planning your child’s support

    This factsheet explains the different ways that your child’s support might be planned, including descriptions of the types of written plans that might be used.

We’re thinking of moving, what should we do next?

A local authority only becomes responsible for your child’s education when you have an address there that is your main residence. However, if you know which local authority you’re planning to move to, or are looking at a few possible local authorities, you could:

  • Get in touch with the Local authority additional support for learning contact to explain your child’s needs, and ask what information they need from you to start planning their support and school placement.
  • Search and look at different schools in the area on Education Scotland’s Find an Inspection Report page. If you find a school you are interested in, you can contact them directly to talk about your child’s needs and how they feel they might be able to support them.
  • Read about how support in schools and nurseries works in Scotland across our website, and in our free guide Additional support for learning: a guide for parents and carers.

We have already moved to Scotland but are unsure what to do next?

Firstly, you should find out what your catchment school is, get in touch with them and discuss how they can meet your child’s needs. Usually you can find them through your local authority’s website. If you are concerned that the catchment school is unable to meet your child’s needs, you can get in touch with the Local authority additional support for learning contact to discuss where else your child’s needs can be met.

If you do not agree with the school being offered to your child, you can make a parental placing request to a school of your choice, or take other steps to try and reach an agreement with the local authority. How to make a placing request is explained in our School placements factsheet. Further steps you can take if you disagree with the local authority are in our Avoiding and solving problems factsheet. It may also help to call the Enquire helpline to talk about your options.

  • School placements

    Factsheet explaining the different types of schools that pupils with additional support needs might attend, how school placements are usually made, tips on choosing a school. and your rights to make a placing request to a school of your choice.

  • Avoiding and solving problems

    This factsheet explains the steps you can take if you are worried or unhappy about your child’s support, and some of the further steps you can take if you are in a disagreement with a local authority.

Where can I find out more about the education system in Scotland?

We’d suggest taking a look at the information on Education Scotland’s Parentzone site for information about how school education works in Scotland.

If your child hasn’t yet started school, the ParentClub website has lots of useful information about early learning and childcare.

We’ve recently moved to Scotland as a refugee or asylum seeking family. Can my child get additional support at school or nursery?

Yes, if your child is finding nursery or school difficult for any reason, they have a right to support with their learning

Your child can get support at school if they:

  • Do not have the same level of English as their classmates  
  • Have a recognised neurodevelopmental condition such as autism or dyslexia 
  • Have a physical disability  
  • Have a hearing or speech impairment 
  • Have anxiety or mental health difficulties as a result of a traumatic or life-changing event
  • Are experiencing bullying  
  • If they have any other need or experience that is impacting them getting the most from their learning

If you think your child might need extra support the first thing to do is speak to your child’s school or nursery. The support your child will get may not be exactly the same as any support they received before you moved to Scotland, but the school or nursery should listen to you and take into account the information you provide about their needs and previous support. If needed, the school may also look to do their own assessment of your child’s needs. As a parent or carer you have a right to be involved in this process and any support planning that happens next.

Our downloadable factsheet on Supporting Refugee and asylum-seeking families in school explains more about your child’s rights and what you can do if you have arrived in Scotland and feel your child needs more support.

The other sections on this page explain more about how the system in Scotland works. Elsewhere on our site, the Getting the right support pages explain how your child’s needs will be assessed, supported and planned.

  • Image of front cover of 'Supporting refugee and asylum-seeking families in school'

    Supporting refugee and asylum-seeking families in school

    This factsheet explains the right of refugee and asylum-seeking families to support if their child needs extra help at school or nursery after arriving in Scotland. Our website’s accessibility tools

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