Understanding the jargon

Understanding the jargon

Lots of different and new terms might be used when working together with different professionals to talk about a child’s additional support. While new terms should always be explained to you by those using them, below also gives a quick reference for some of the key words and phrases you might come across.


Additional Support Needs Tribunal

Also known as:
First-Tier Tribunal for Scotland (Health and Education Chamber)
ASN Tribunal

The tribunal is an impartial, independent and expert panel that will make a legally binding decision on how to resolve certain types of disagreements about the additional support needs of a child or young person.

  • The Additional Support Needs Tribunal

    Factsheet explaining the disagreements you can refer to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal, and how the tribunal process works.

Additional support needs (ASNs)

A child or young person has additional support needs if, for any reason, they need extra or different support to benefit from their education.

Appropriate agencies

Agencies that must help the local authority carry out its legal duties to support children and young people with their learning. These include other local authorities, health boards, Skills Development Scotland, colleges of further education, and higher education institutes.



Someone having the maturity and understanding to be able to take an action or make a decision can be referred to as them having ‘capacity’.

Catchment school

The local school that children usually attend in each area. Local authorities have ‘catchment areas’ to decide which children go to which schools– it will often be the school most local to where they live.

Care experienced

A child or young person who is living, or has lived, in care at any stage in their life. This includes children who have experienced, or are currently, living in residential care, foster care, kinship care, or at home with a supervision order.

Adopted children who were previously looked after are also care experienced.

Child’s Plan

If a child needs extra support to meet their wellbeing needs (for example, access to mental health services or respite care), the professionals working with the child should prepare and co-ordinate support through a Child’s Plan.

If a child has an educational support plan (like an IEP or CSP), it can form part of the wider Child’s Plan. Similarly, if a child has a care plan (for example if they live with foster carers) this can also form part of the wider Child’s Plan.

Co-ordinated support plan (CSP)

A legal written document for children and young people with complex or multiple additional support needs. To be eligible for a CSP, children must need significant, long term additional support with their education from education professionals and at least one other department or service like social work or health professionals.


The subjects and learning opportunities that schools offer to their pupils. The curriculum in all Scottish schools is called the ‘Curriculum for Excellence’.



Under the law, a person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, long-term, and adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

  • Disabled pupils and the law

    Factsheet explaining the main laws that apply to support and adaptations for disabled pupils at school and nursery.

Dispute resolution

A general term for different options that can be used to try and resolve a disagreement. When parents or young people have a disagreement with their school or local authority, they can try dispute resolution options like mediation, independent adjudication or the tribunal to try and resolve their disagreement.


Education appeal committee

A committee made up of three, five or seven people with different experiences (such as local councillors and parents). It is set up by the local authority to hear and decide appeals from parents, carers and young people about exclusions and some placing requests.

  • Education appeal committees

    Factsheet explaining what appeals you can take to an education appeal committee, and how the process works.

Education authority

The education department of a local authority.


GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child)

A national programme that aims to improve outcomes for all children in Scotland. It applies to all services working with children, for example education, health, social work, and the police. Its aim is to provide a framework for all services and agencies to deliver a co-ordinated approach to support children’s wellbeing.

  • Inclusion, equality and wellbeing

    Factsheet explaining what local authorities, schools and nurseries should do to make sure all pupils are included, treated fairly, and have their wellbeing supported and protected.

Grant-aided schools

Grant-aided schools are independent of local authorities. They are fully or partly funded by grants from the Scottish Government. A number are special schools that offer enhanced support for children with additional support needs, often because of long-term, complex or multiple factors.


Independent adjudication

A way of resolving disagreements with the local authority about a child’s or young person’s additional support needs. An independent person formally reviews all the circumstances around a dispute and makes recommendations about how it should be resolved.

  • Independent adjudication

    This factsheet explains how and when you can use independent adjudication to resolve a disagreement about your child’s support.

Independent school

Can also be known as: Private school

A school that is not run by the local authority or grant-aided. Independent schools usually charge fees for educating children and young people. Some independent schools are special schools that offer enhanced support for children with additional support needs.

Individualised educational programme (IEP)

Can also be known as: Additional support plan (ASP) or Individual support plan (ISP), or other names

A document that can help the nursery or school plan and review the additional support they are giving a child or young person. It should set out the child’s or young person’s support needs, the support the school will provide to help meet those needs, and the learning outcomes they are trying to achieve. It should also say when the plan will next be reviewed.


Local authority or council

The part of local government that is responsible for providing and overseeing public services in your area, including education.

You can find your local authority by entering your postcode in gov.uk/find-local-council

Looked after child

A child or young person in the care of their local authority. A child or young person can be in care for a number of reasons, and it can be short or long-term. They can still live at home and be looked after by their local authority (through a supervision order). They can also be a ‘Looked after and accommodated child’, which is when they live away from home in (formal) kinship care, foster care or residential care.

Decisions about children living in care are usually made though the Children’s Hearing System (“Children’s Panels”). They may also be made through the courts. Sometimes a family makes a voluntary arrangement with the local authority.


Mainstream school

A school that is not a special school.


A way of resolving disagreements with a school or local authority about the additional support needs of a child or young person. It is a free, voluntary process where an impartial third person (a mediator) can help those involved in a disagreement try to find a way forward they can all agree on.


Partnership nursery

A private nursery that has a contract with a local authority to provide children’s funded hours of early learning and childcare.

Personal Learning Planning (PLP)

All pupils should have learning targets to work towards, and these are set out as part of ‘Personal Learning Planning’. Children needing a higher level of additional support may need a more detailed plan like an additional support plan or a co-ordinated support plan.

Placing request

A formal request to the local authority for a child or young person to attend a school that is not their local catchment school or the school recommended by the local authority. A parent, carer or young person can make a placing request. A placing request must be made in a permanent form, such as in writing. It must name a specific school, and give reasons for the request.

  • 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.

Presumption of mainstream

Local authorities have a duty to provide education in a mainstream school, unless certain exceptions apply. This is known as the ‘presumption of mainstreaming’. The circumstances where education can be provided in schools other than mainstream schools are where:

  • a mainstream school would not suit the pupil’s ability or aptitude
  • providing education in a mainstream school would negatively affect the learning of other pupils in the school
  • the cost of placing the pupil in a mainstream school would be unreasonably high.



Making a ‘reference’ to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal is when a parent or young person takes a dispute with the local authority about their additional support needs to the Tribunal.

Note: if the dispute is a discrimination claim then it is called a ‘claim’, not a reference.

  • The Additional Support Needs Tribunal

    Factsheet explaining the disagreements you can refer to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal, and how the tribunal process works.


Special school

A school that offers enhanced support specifically for children with additional support needs. Some mainstream schools have a special support “unit”, with close ties to the mainstream school – these also come under the legal definition of ‘special school’.

Special schools can be run by the local authority, grant-aided (given funding directly by the Scottish Government), or independent (funded and run by other agencies, like charities).

Staged intervention

Most local authorities have a process called ‘staged intervention’ to help them find the right level of planning and support for children and young people who have different levels of support needs.


Young person

Under education law, a ‘young person’ is 16 years or older and still at school. There is no upper age limit, but they need to have been enrolled in school education since they turned 16.

Informally, ‘young person’ can be used more flexibly to refer to teenagers who may not self-identify as a ‘child’, or to young adults.

Still have questions about additional support for learning?

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