Meeting learners’ additional support needs
There are many reasons why children and young people might need extra help with their learning. There are just as many ways in which you can help meet their needs.
In this section we’ll look at:
- the different types of additional support for learning
- how decisions are made about the support a learner may receive
- how to make sure the support you are providing is meeting a learner’s needs.
What is ‘additional support for learning’?
Additional support for learning is the extra or different help provided to learners who have additional support needs. The law does not say how much or what type of support each learner should get. Instead, their support must be ‘adequate and efficient’ and based on their individual needs.
Education for all children must be ‘directed to the development of the personality, talent, and mental and physical abilities of the child or young person to their fullest potential’ (Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000).
What does additional support for learning look like in practice?
People can have many preconceived notions about what additional support for learning looks like or includes. Some people might think it only or mainly happens in special schools, that it means a full-time one-to-one support staff member for a child, or that it only means getting things like extra time in exams.
In fact, additional support for learning covers anything you do to help a child or young person who needs some extra support with their learning. It might be a one-off or short-term intervention, or it can be ongoing long-term support.
The different types of support can be grouped under three overlapping headings. We’ve listed some examples under each:
Approaches to learning and teaching
- using particular approaches, like social stories, for autistic children and young people
- making adjustments to the classroom environment to help learners with sensory impairments
Support from colleagues and other people
- an educational psychologist recommending support strategies for you to follow to help a child with ADHD focus and breakdown tasks
- an support for learning teacher or pupil support assistant working with a smaller group of dyslexic children on their literacy
Provision of resources
- giving a child with communication difficulties the use of a tablet device with apps that can help them communicate
- providing a young person with a laptop so they can take notes independently if they have difficulty holding a pen or with handwriting.
These are only a few examples, and it’s important to remember that often children and young people will need a combination of different supports. Some of those you’ll be able to provide, and other times you’ll need help or input from others.
Identifying what support will work for your learner
Each child or young person is unique. Support that works for one child may not work for another who has the same diagnosis or is in a similar circumstance.
For example, one-to-one support might be very helpful for one learner, while it may cause another learner distress or embarrassment. One young carer may need lots of support with their wellbeing from various services, whilst another might just need a flexible school start time and a bit of understanding if their homework is late.
The key is getting to know your learners well and working with them, their families and your colleagues. Together you can identify what kinds of support will help the most.
For more information about identifying and understanding learners needs, take a look at our page on Identifying and assessing learners’ additional support needs .
For signposting to resources and services to help you identify ways to support learners with specific support needs, see our page on I have a learner who needs support because…
Who decides what support to put in place?
When you know a child or young person well, you may be able to work out what adaptations you can make to help them get the best from their learning. You may need to try different things to find out what works best.
You can, of course, also ask for help from colleagues and additional support for learning specialists in your school or local authority.
When a learner needs more tailored support, it will often be the person responsible for additional support for learning in the school who decides what support is best for that child or young person. This is usually a nursery manager, deputy or head teacher in primary schools, or a principal teacher of support for learning in high schools.
They may consult with other professionals, such as an educational psychologist or health practitioner, to help them decide what strategies to use. A multi-agency team (sometimes called the Team Around the Child, or TAC) might be set up to plan the support. You may be asked to provide information to the multi-agency team about the child or young person.
Some learners will need significant additional support from agencies outside education to help them benefit from their learning. This support will need to be co-ordinated, so they may require a co-ordinated support plan (CSP). Decisions about CSPs are usually made at the local authority level, with input from relevant professionals, the child or young person and their parents or carers.
How can I make sure the support I am providing is helping?
Children and young people’s support needs will often change as they progress through nursery and school. It’s important to keep their needs under consideration and adapt the support you provide when necessary.
For most learners, you will do this as part of your ongoing assessment of their progress.
Learners with more significant support needs might have a learning support plan which will be reviewed more formally. For example, individualised education plans (IEPs) might be reviewed termly. You may be involved in these reviews or asked to contribute information about the learner’s progress.
You should be told the outcome of any reviews and advised about any changes you might need to make to support the child or young person more effectively.
Every learner is unique, so what works for one child or young person may not work for another
Talk to the child or young person to find out what helps them
Ask for help or advice from parents, carers and colleagues
Learners’ needs will change over time – be prepared to change the support you are giving them when needed.