What the law says about additional support for learning

What the law says about additional support for learning

All children get support at school and nursery to help them learn. ‘Additional support for learning’ is the term used to describe any support that is extra or different to the help that most children receive. It can include help that is focused on learning, and support to be fully involved in school life.

There are many types of support available. The support your child gets should be tailored to their individual needs. It should build on their strengths and help them overcome any difficulties they’re experiencing. The aim should be to help your child fully benefit from their education.

Additional support for learning isn’t just a good idea – it’s the law

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.

There is Scottish Government guidance that explains how the ASL Act should work in practice. The guidance is ‘statutory’. This means that local authorities, schools, nurseries and other agencies must take account of what is in it. The guidance is called the ‘Supporting Children’s Learning Code of Practice’.

The information that Enquire provides is based on the ASL Act and Code of Practice as well as some other related laws, guidance and policies.

What types of ‘additional support for learning’ are available?

Additional support for learning can be provided in lots of different ways. It can include things like:

  • changes to the curriculum or the way a pupil is taught
  • support from a learning assistant
  • use of technology or changes to learning materials
  • input from specialist teachers or health professionals.

To work out what support your child needs, their nursery or school should use their own observations and expertise. They must also consider any information and advice you and your child can give them about what would help. And they should take account of any information given to them by other professionals involved in your child’s care and support, like a health professional or social worker.

Visit our page Providing your child’s support for more examples of the kinds of support your child might receive.

Who is responsible for providing the support?

In most cases, the local authority where you live will have legal responsibility for making sure your child has the support they need. In some situations, another local authority may be responsible for your child’s support. This might happen if your child attends a school in a different area because of a placing request.

Most of the day-to-day responsibility for arranging and providing your child’s support will be with your child’s school or nursery. If your child needs more or different support than the school or nursery can provide, your local authority is responsible for making sure they get the help they need. The local authority can also ask other services, like health or social work, for help.

Take a look at our page on Who’s who: Professionals supporting your child to find out more about the roles of those who support your child.

Where can my child get support?

The local authority must give your child the support they need if your child has additional support needs and attends:

  • a school or nursery run by a local authority
  • a nursery or other early years settings that has a contract with a local authority to provide your child’s free hours of early learning and childcare, or
  • a grant-aided or independent special school or nursery, where a local authority has arranged your child’s placement.

Our page on Choosing the right school has more information about different kinds of schools.

If you have arranged for your child to attend an independent school or nursery, or to be educated at home, then your local authority can choose to provide additional support for learning for your child, but it does not have to. Find out more in our factsheets on ‘Independent schools and additional support for learning’ and ‘Home education and additional support for learning’.

When can my child start receiving support?

A child may be identified as having additional support needs at any stage of their education.

The legal right to start receiving additional support for learning begins once your child becomes eligible for their funded hours of early learning and childcare. This is usually from the age of three, or from age two for some children. Children who need support earlier than this because they are disabled can also receive additional support for their learning. You can find out more about this in our Early years and starting school section.

The right to additional support for learning then continues all the way until your child leaves high school.

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