What is additional support for learning?
About a third of all children and young people in Scotland are recognised as having additional support needs. While all children get support with their learning, some need extra or different help.
You have responsibilities towards these learners to help them benefit fully from their education. These responsibilities come from the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, as amended (The ASL Act).
In this section, we’ll look at the principles and definitions of additional support for learning. It might be helpful to familiarise yourself with this if you’re new to additional support for learning, or you’re looking for a refresh of your knowledge.
What are ‘additional support needs’?
A child or young person has additional support needs if, for any reason, they need extra or different help than others their age to benefit fully from their education.
For example, if:
- their learning environment is not suitable for them
- they are disabled or have a health condition
- their family circumstances are affecting them in school, or
- they are experiencing social or emotional problems.
A child or young person may need additional support at any time from starting nursery through to leaving high school. They may need support for only a short time, or for the whole time they are in education. Their needs may also change over time.
What is ‘additional support for learning’?
Additional support for learning (ASL) is the extra or different help provided to learners who have additional support needs. Additional support for learning can take many different forms. It can include things like:
- changes to the curriculum or the way a learner is taught
- support from a learning assistant
- use of technology or changes to learning materials
- input from specialist teachers or health professionals.
The ASL Act gives learners who need extra help at school or nursery the right to get the support they need. 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.
What is my role?
If you work with a child in a nursery or school setting, you have a role to play in their support for learning. Supporting children and young people does not happen in isolation, and it is not only a job for specialist support staff.
If you see that a learner is struggling at school or nursery for any reason, you should take steps to find out the reason for this and arrange for them to get the support they need.
Local authorities, and those working on their behalf, like school or nursery staff, must:
- identify which children and young people have additional support needs
- provide these learners with ‘adequate and efficient’ additional support to help them fully benefit from their education
- make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to support disabled learners and avoid disadvantage
- keep supports under review to make sure they are meeting learners’ needs
- identify which children and young people need a co-ordinated support plan (CSP) and prepare CSPs for them
- take account of learners’ additional support needs in any decisions made about their education
- listen and take account of children’s views, as well as the views of their parents and carers
- have arrangements in place to help resolve disagreements about additional support for learning, and
- publish and keep up to date information about how they do all the above.
Remember, no one is expected to do all of this on their own. You are part of a team who can work together with children and young people and their families to make sure they get the support they need.