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Advice for parents in Scotland

What is additional support for learning?

Understanding what additional support for learning is can help when you are talking to your child’s school about their learning or support needs.

Every child gets help in school with their learning. A child is said to have ‘additional support needs’ if they need more, or different, support to what is normally provided in schools or pre-schools to children of the same age. Children might need extra help to be able to take part in school or get the most from their education.

Some children may need a lot of support all the way through school. Others may need only a small amount for a short time.

A child can need extra help for lots of reasons, including:

- Difficulty in controlling behaviour
- Missing school because of an illness or long-term condition
- Having a physical disability
- Being a young carer
- Communication difficulties
- Being particularly able
- Changing school a lot
- Being looked after or in care
- Having a difficult family situation
- Suffering a bereavement
- Being bullied

Every child is different and they will all cope differently with issues in their lives. So for example, a child facing changes at home may cope well in school and not require any extra support. But another child facing similar issues may struggle in school and need extra support.

It’s also possible that the classroom itself or the way lessons are taught can cause additional support needs. For example how a classroom is laid out may mean a child with a physical disability needs adaptations made, or the design or font of worksheets or books may make them difficult to use for a child with dyslexia.

There is no one-way to support children in school. It will depend on your child’s needs. The law does not say what type, level or frequency of support a child should receive.

Support is usually provided through the normal learning and teaching that takes place. Depending on your child’s needs extra support may include:

- Short bursts of intensive work, 1 to 1 or in a group, with a teacher or learning support assistant
- Working with a child on a learning programme such as Toe by Toe
- Extra time to complete work
- Changing the classroom environment to suit a child’s needs
- Using a visual timetable to help a child manage their time
- Providing coping strategies or a quiet space to help children with their behaviour
- A teacher adapting how he or she teaches a lesson (for example breaking down the lesson into smaller chunks)
- Adapting learning materials to a child’s needs
- Using special equipment or IT
- Creating a circle of friends to support a child who is isolated during break or lunch times

Sometimes different types of support, particularly behaviour support, have to be tried and tested to see which ones work best for a child.

The law that relates to additional support for learning is the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 as amended. It is often referred to as the ASL Act.

This Act and it's code of practice, sets out your rights as a parent and the rights of your child to get the additional support they need in school. It also sets in place the framework for schools, local authorities and other agencies to make sure this happens.

You can:

- raise any worries you have about your child's learning as soon as possible
- talk to your child's class teacher at the next parents' evening
- ask for a separate meeting to talk over concerns if you need more time
- order a copy of our Parents' Guide to find out more about additional support for learning.

Possible conversation starters:

- My child seems to be struggling with his reading. Could we discuss support for him in school?
- My child is getting upset at home about school. Is he managing in class?
- Could you explain how you support my child in school?

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Additional support for learning: A guide for parents and carers

Our easy to read guide to additional support for learning in Scotland explains your and your child’s rights, local authorities’ duties, what to expect at meetings and much more.

Order printed copy Download PDF (109 pages)