Enquire have responded to the Scottish Government’s proposals around minimum learning hours and the impact they could have on children with additional support needs and their families.
Potential positives as well as anticipated issues were highlighted in our consultation response to the Scottish Government on plans to introduce a minimum legal annual number of hours of education for Scottish school pupils. As well as setting a minimum number of hours their proposals aim to identify situations or ‘exemptions’ where fewer than the minimum number of hours could be provided. Two significant exemptions are where the pupil’s wellbeing would be adversely affected by attending for the set number of hours, or where matters out with a local authority’s control impact the ability to deliver the number of hours set.
Based on the extensive number of families we speak to each year, our response identifies where we believe setting a minimum number of learning hours could help in securing and delivering on the right to education for all pupils.
However, we also express some of our concerns regarding the potential for varied interpretation of the policy. For example, where use of the proposed exemptions could prolong or worsen existing confusion and local variation in practice, particularly relating to part-time timetables and out-of-school education for those unable to attend school settings. In addition, we highlight the need to ensure the voices and experiences of children and young people with additional support needs are at the centre of any decisions on how such a policy would be implemented.
Hannah Gray, Senior Advice and Information Officer with Enquire said:
“Over the last year over a quarter of calls on our helpline were relating to children and young people out of school. We know from these calls that many young people with additional support needs access fewer learning hours than their peers, for a wide variety of reasons.
“Based on what we hear from families and professionals, we wanted to highlight where we see there could be positives but also inconsistencies in how the policy could be interpreted and implemented, particularly regarding the proposed exemptions.
“If this proposal is implemented, we advise clear and robust guidance around when exemptions could be used and how pupils and their families would be involved in decision making. We would welcome real-life examples of how the policy could be implemented.
“Given the over-representation of children and young people with additional support needs in exclusion and non-attendance figures, we also suggest more consideration and consultation with children and young people with additional support needs and their families before the proposals proceed to the next stage.”
The Scottish Government’s consultation on prescribing the annual minimum number of learning hours closed on Tuesday 13 June.