Additional support for learning

We want all children and young people to get the support they need to reach their full learning potential. We have a system which focuses on overcoming barriers to learning and getting it right for every child.

Rights of people with additional support needs

By law, education authorities must identify, provide and review the additional support needs of their pupils which can arise in the short or long term as a result of the learning environment, family circumstances, health, wellbeing needs or a disability.

Since January 2018 children aged 12 to 15 have more rights. The amendments to the Education Scotland Act 2016 are detailed in this Keeling Schedule.

Find out more:

Advice services on ASL

Enquire provides an independent and impartial advice for teachers, parents, local authorities and others caring for or working with children and young people with additional support needs. Find out more: or call 0345 123 2303.

To help parents, carers and young people in securing their rights we fund an advocacy and legal representation service. This is called Let's Talk ASN

We also established a children's service which provides advice and information, advocacy support, legal representation and a service to seek children's views independently about their support. This is called My Rights, My Say.

To support this,  Enquire has developed a website dedicated to children and young people. Reach supports children and young people to feel supported, included, listened to and involved in decisions at school.  The Reach website has information and advice for pupils about their rights to additional support for learning; practical tips for all sorts of school problems; young people’s real life stories; and positive examples of pupil participation. 

Doran Review implementation

The Doran Review made recommendations around services in relation to children and young people with complex additional support needs. We set up the National Strategic Commissioning Group to take this forward.

An archive of the Doran Review website is available here.

Mainstream education

The 2000 Act requires that pupils with additional support needs learn in a mainstream school unless specific exceptions apply. The guidance on mainstreaming is several years old.

We have recently consulted on updated draft guidance on mainstreaming. As part of this work we have commissioned independent research into the experiences of children and young people which will be published in autumn 2018. Updated guidance will be published towards the end of 2018.

Children unable to attend school due to ill health

Children and young people who are unable to attend school due to ill health should continue, whenever they can, to access education during periods of prolonged ill health. Education authorities have duties to provide education elsewhere than at a school, in these circumstances.

Education of children unable to attend school: guidance is for education authorities to support them in implementation of these issues.

Supporting children and young people with healthcare needs in schools

Where children and young people require medication throughout their school day, a healthcare plan should be put in place which sets out the arrangements for ongoing medical care in school and emergency procedures should one arise.

Supporting children and young people with healthcare needs in schools: guidance is for health boards, education authorities and schools on providing medication to children and young people in schools. This guidance includes information on emergency medication - Salbutamol inhalers and adrenaline auto-injectors.

Dyslexia: supporting children and young people

The Additional Support for Learning Act places education authorities under duties to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils, including those with dyslexia.

The Scottish definition of Dyslexia has been developed by the Scottish Government, Dyslexia Scotland, the Cross Party Group on Dyslexia in the Scottish Parliament and a wide range of stakeholders. This is one of many definitions available and is recommended as helpful guidance by Education Scotland.  The definition is as follows:

"Dyslexia can be described as a continuum of difficulties in learning to read, write and/or spell, which persist despite the provision of appropriate learning opportunities. These difficulties often do not reflect an individual's cognitive abilities and may not be typical of performance in other areas.

The impact of dyslexia as a barrier to learning varies in degree according to the learning and teaching environment, as there are often associated difficulties such as:

  • auditory and/or visual processing of language-based information
  • phonological awareness
  • oral language skills and reading fluency
  • short-term and working memory
  • sequencing and directionality
  • number skills
  • organisational ability

Motor skills and co-ordination may also be affected."

We have worked with Dyslexia Scotland and others to produce resources for schools to ensure that children and young people are able to realise their potential.

These include:

This work is taken forward in partnership with the Dyslexia Working Group.

Autism: supporting children and young people

To support those working with pupils with autism in schools, we funded the development and publication of the Autism Toolbox. This provides information to support the identification, support and planning of learning for pupils with autism.

The Scottish Strategy for Autism was pubished in 2011. It aims to ensure that progress is made in delivering quality services for people with autism and their families.

In 2018 we published the Scottish Strategy for Autism Outcomes and Priorities 2018 to 2021. This document sets out the priorities for action through to 2021 to improve outcomes for autistic people and includes actions to support improved educational outcomes for children and young people who have autism.

Additional Support for Learning Review

Angela Morgan’s review of implementation of Additional Support for Learning was published in June 2020. 

The Scottish Government and COSLA published our joint action plan in October 2020.  This sets out the measures we will take to address the findings from the review, seeking to enhance the experiences of children and young people with additional support needs.

A key part of this, is the development of a vision statement for success which has been created by the Young Ambassadors for Inclusion.  

Related statistics

The annual statistics publication Summary statistics for schools in Scotland contains information about pupil characteristics which includes the number of pupils with additional support needs.

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