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happy, safe and achieving their potential: a standard of support for children and young people in Scottish schools


happy, safe and achieving their potential
a standard of support for children and young people in Scottish schools
the report of The National Review of Guidance 2004

the review of personal support in school

The Review of Guidance identified what we want to achieve for children and young people and the school communities supporting them. It reflects the history and current practice of supporting pupils, and takes account of the range of policies impacting on children, young people and education.

The Context - Shaping the Future of Education

In 2004 the Scottish Executive developed an agenda for action built on the belief in the potential of all young people and the commitment to help each of them realise that potential. Ambitious Excellent Schools described the determination to enable all young people to have the self-esteem to be confident, happy and ambitious. The agenda for education is to help each young person imagine a positive future for themselves and those around them and helping them to make that future possible.

The Ambitious Excellent Schools agenda for action involves:

High expectations, high quality leadership and confident and ambitious schools

Good leadership is critical to a successful school. Success comes from aiming high with the clear vision, ethos and communication that good leadership brings.

Professional freedom for teachers and schools to tailor learning to the needs of individual young people

The people best placed to make judgements about the learning needs of individual young people are those who work with them most closely. Within a framework of clear national standards and local authority support, teachers and other professionals in schools must have the freedom to exercise their professional judgement to deliver excellent learning and teaching.

Choice and opportunity for young people to help each of them realise their own potential

Our young people have a very wide range of individual skills, talents, aspirations and enthusiasms and their success comes through realising their individual potential. All young people should have a secure foundation in literacy, numeracy and other essential skills and capabilities to help them achieve their potential. Young people must have the opportunity to gain these essential skills and to give each of them the opportunity to choose and develop the other personal skills and talents most important to them.

The Curriculum for Excellence seeks to promote children's and young people's understanding, values and capabilities. It is one of the prime purposes of education to make children and young people aware of the values on which Scottish society is based and so help them to establish their own positions on matters of social justice and personal and collective responsibility. Children and young people therefore need to learn about and develop these values.

The Personal Support offered by a school is an important means through which this personal development should be encouraged.

To achieve this, Personal Support and learning should:

  • enable all young people to benefit from their education, supporting them in different ways to achieve their potential
  • must value all young people and promote high aspirations and ambition
  • should emphasise the rights and responsibilities of individuals. It should help young people to understand diverse cultures and beliefs and support them in developing concern, tolerance, care and respect for themselves and others
  • must enable young people to build up a strong foundation of knowledge and understanding and promote a commitment to considered judgement and ethical action
  • should give young people the confidence, attributes and capabilities to make valuable contributions to society.

Schools' systems of Personal Support must be inclusive, be a support for personal achievement and be an encouragement towards informed and responsible citizenship. Our aspiration for all children and young people is that they should be successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society and work. By providing structure, support and direction young people should be able to develop these four capacities. Personal Support should complement the important contributions of families and communities.

The Curriculum for Excellence is based on the core values underpinning our democracy: wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity (the words inscribed on the Mace of the Scottish Parliament). Personal Support and learning are powerful forces in children and young people's lives.

The Curriculum for Excellence:

The Curriculum for Excellence

Supporting Pupils to Realise their Potential - the Evolving Role of Personal Support in Schools

Education professionals are in the forefront of the most comprehensive universal service to children in Scotland, representing the best opportunity for regular and long-term relationships with the majority of children and young people aged 3-18 and their families. It is also education professionals that, through this relationship, most often recognise and make an initial response to children's need for support, and the role of teachers and staff involved in Personal Support is vital in ensuring that other support services become appropriately involved.

Since the 1960s the role of teachers and specialist staff in providing care and welfare support in schools has developed and the organisation of support within schools has evolved. The publication of More than Feelings of Concern (Scottish Central Committee on Guidance, 1986) established some important principles for the development of guidance:

  • each pupil knows and is known personally by at least one member of staff
  • considers children's personal, social and intellectual development
  • enables children to be aware of own development and responsible for it
  • identify and respond quickly to specific needs of the pupil
  • fosters the development of good relations between teachers and children
  • works well with the home in all aspects of pupil development
  • liaises with and supports welfare services
  • systematises and makes effective the recording and communication of information relevant to the welfare of children.

Key Influences on Guidance and Personal Support in Schools in the 21st century

The Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act (2000) consolidated the vision of education and focuses on the importance of supporting children and young people to achieve their full potential through the development of their personalities and talents, as well as their academic attainment. The 2000 Act introduced the presumption of mainstream education for all children, in keeping with the desire to achieve an inclusive society.


Schools are expected to strive for the inclusion of all children and young people. Professionals and support staff are engaging creatively with the challenges of identifying the strengths and support needs of individual pupils, and devising appropriate support and learning opportunities to ensure they remain motivated and engaged. There are now also clearly articulated expectations of improved outcomes for particular groups of children who have in the past experienced poorer educational outcomes and reduced life chances, such as looked after children and young people.

The role of schools in preparing children and young people for their adult life has become more complex. The unique opportunity within schools to reach the majority of children and young people, at every stage in their development, means that school is the place where it is expected there will be learning on key personal and social issues felt to be crucial to children's and young people's ability to make positive life choices; in health, including sexual health, drugs and personal safety; and learn citizenship and a confident, enterprising approach to life.

Challenges in Supporting Pupils

Oldmachar Academy is a school of 1,115 pupils in a suburban area of Aberdeen. The school is developing its support for pupils and faces many of the typical challenges for schools when meeting the needs of all pupils.

The scale of the task in finding the right level of support that pupils require is the main challenge described by the headteacher. The school qualifies for limited allocation of additional support which is calculated on levels of FME. Bringing support staff together as an integrated pupil support team helps to make best use of six full-time guidance staff (with no subject commitment other than personal and social education), two support for learning staff and one behaviour support member of staff.

The development of positive and continuing relationships between pupils and pupil support staff is a priority. All non-promoted staff play a role as first-level guidance tutors who meet with pupils for 10 minutes every day, while guidance staff meet with their designated groups once a week during registration. The first-level tutors also team-teach personal and social education with the guidance staff.

Contact time is enhanced by encouraging pupils to self-refer to the school's guidance base, where guidance staff and three depute Year Heads can be accessed.

Communication supports access, and all pupils and parents are provided with photographs of guidance staff, a contact point, email address and phone number, when a pupil starts the school.

The headteacher describes several important features of developing support for pupils in the school:

  • the development of team working and a common agenda for all staff involved in supporting pupils
  • creating a climate within the school that is positive about partnership working
  • taking a collegiate approach to policy development within the school and involving staff in working groups to develop policy and practice
  • working within a positive, caring school ethos.

Working Together

In 2001, the Discipline Task Group recommended that learning support, behaviour support and pupil support should be integrated to provide holistic support for children and young people. There is increasing evidence that children's and young people's transitions between stages in education require a crucial level of partnership working, planning, monitoring and readiness for swift responses to difficulties as soon as these are identified.

Integrated Community Schools and the integration of children's services help ensure planning, decision making and action are developed effectively to support all children and young people and for swift action to be taken to resolve any difficulties that arise. Partnership working is successful when roles, responsibilities and communication are structured and well managed, and this requires schools and other agencies to invest time in this approach. Children and young people may develop relationships with a wide range of staff working in partnership with schools, which enhances the range of support available to them.

All of these developments place greater demands on Personal Support in Schools. The broad role of guidance and pupil support is now more pertinent than ever for children and young people in primary, secondary and special schools.

The Teachers' Agreement

A Teaching Profession For the 21st Century (2001) describes the role of teachers in meeting the educational, care and welfare needs of children and young people. 'Annex B' of the Teachers' Agreement requires that all teaching staff share this responsibility. It describes the importance of ensuring strategic management, direction and support to staff to enable them to fulfil this role, and requires that Personal Support is embedded in Continuing Professional Development and accreditation structures.

The Teachers' Agreement graphic

Leading, managing and engaging

Leith Academy in City of Edinburgh has a school roll of 981 and serves a mixed white and ethnic minority community and an area with contrasting neighbourhoods of economic prosperity and disadvantage.

The diversity of the pupil population in Leith Academy presents a number of challenges for the headteacher, management team and support team:

  • providing for pupils with the normal range of motivation, aspirations and potential to achieve encountered in any secondary school
  • providing for pupils and parents with a first language other than English
  • providing for several pupils with physical disabilities, some of whom require treatments from therapists or other health professionals as a normal part of their school week
  • providing for a number of pupils with social and communication difficulties (e.g. Asperger's Syndrome) who use enhanced learning support provision within the school
  • planning and developing a relevant programme of learning for health, personal and social development

The senior management team was concerned not only to develop services to children, but also develop the school's pupil support capacity. As it piloted new approaches to supporting pupils it continually revised and developed in consultation with all of the stakeholders.

  • The school registers pupils within the first teaching period, adding a few minutes to the first period to allow for this. This allows for the creation of two twenty-minute periods during the week when group tutors meet with 15-20 pupils - who will remain their tutor group as they progress through the school.
  • The school prepared group tutors (a role which involves most staff) by introducing a 'good tutor' development programme.
  • A plan for the school year links the tutor periods to whole school assemblies given by the senior management team. As well as reflecting on the assembly themes together, the group tutors monitor progress and attendance and engage pupils in citizenship activities such as planning school events or charitable activities.
  • Five Year Heads also follow their year group through the school. They act as a one-stop contact for pupils, parents and staff for all their concerns. They each manage a specialism and associated team of staff, and this line management helps create a formal mechanism for bringing the views and ideas of all pupil support staff, including learning assistants, into planning and development.
  • Three Year Deputes (covering lower, middle and upper years) keep an overview of all resource issues related to their year groups and act as line managers for the year heads.
  • The approach has helped the school to overcome the distinction between guidance and discipline; this has helped the school to create an holistic approach to guidance, learning support and classroom management; and has enhanced the school's capacity for planning and development to support pupils.
  • The school runs several programmes to support pupils:

    a senior pupil personal development programme to involve them in providing some service to the school, as a classroom assistant, paired reader or buddy

    a curriculum support base, supporting flexible curriculum and re-integration of pupils who have been absent using one-to-one support

    'The Centre' - an inclusion resource staffed by teachers and a youth worker, for support and early intervention with younger pupils, which can focus on personal and behaviour support, home-linking and setting personal goals with pupils to help their progress in the school.

The approach has improved every year as staff get to know their tutor groups, reaping the benefits of this sustained approach to building positive relationships using key staff.