Additional support for learning

All children and young people have the right to get the support they need to reach their full learning potential.

In Scotland, we have an inclusive educational system which focuses on overcoming barriers to learning and Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC).

Some children and young people need additional support to benefit fully from their education.

Additional support needs can arise, in the short or long term, from a variety of circumstances including:

  • the learning environment
  • family circumstances
  • health or disability needs
  • social and emotional factors

Rights of children and young people with additional support needs

By law, education authorities must identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils.

The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (the 2004 Act) sets out the duties of education authorities and the rights of parents, children and young people to additional support for learning.

Find out more:

Mainstream education

Scotland’s inclusive approach to education enables all children and young people to be part of a community, boosting their emotional wellbeing and aiding the development of social skills.

Children and young people should learn in the environment which best suits their needs and inclusive practice is important whatever the setting, whether it be within a mainstream or special school.

The presumption of mainstreaming enshrines the right of all children and young people with additional support needs to learn in mainstream schools and early learning and childcare settings.

Find out more:

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.

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. In these circumstances, education authorities have duties to provide education elsewhere than at a school.

Education of children unable to attend school: guidance aims to support education authorities  in meeting the educational and health needs of those children and young people.

Advice and support services

For children and young people on ASL

All children and young people have the right to be involved in decisions about the support they receive at school. However, sometimes it can be hard to voice your opinion. If you would like support in understanding your rights and expressing your views there are services in place to support you: 

  • My Rights My Saya children's service supporting children aged 12-15 to use their rights. They provide advice and information, advocacy support, legal representation and a service to independently seek children's views about the support they receive with their learning.
  • Reach - a website dedicated to children and young people aiming to help them feel supported, included, listened to and involved in decisions at school. It 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. 

For parents and carers on ASL

Parents and carers have the right to be involved in discussions about the additional support for learning options available to their children. If you think your child may need extra help at school or you have concerns about the support that is already in place, we would encourage you to speak to their school in the first instance. There are a number of services in place for parents and carers to access advice, information and support. These include: 

  • Enquire – the national advice and information service on additional support for learning for families, teachers, education authorities and others caring for or working with children and young people with additional support needs. Contact Enquire’s telephone helpline on 0345 123 2303 or visit Enquire’s website.
  • Let’s Talk ASNnational advocacy and legal representation service supporting parents, carers and young people (16+) with a right of reference to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal in exercising their rights.

For practitioners on ASL

Positive relationships between schools and families help children and young people thrive. A relationship of mutual trust and respect can enable effective communication that benefits parents, practitioners and pupils. If you are supporting children and young people with additional support needs having a good understanding of policy and legislation is important to your role. There are a number of sources available to support you, including:

Making sure pupils are included, engaged and involved in their education is fundamental to our educational system. We are committed to ensuring that all children are supported to engage in and benefit from education through supporting schools to develop positive learning environments; promoting positive behaviour and positive relationships. Education Scotland has developed the Introduction to inclusive education module that supports practitioners to develop their understanding of inclusion and equality; an awareness of additional support needs within the context of inclusion as well as an awareness of how to deliver child centred approaches to support the children and young people they work with.

Dyslexia: supporting children and young people

We work with partners through the Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit Working Group to provide advice and free professional learning resources for all school staff. Details of these resources, which include the Scottish definition of Dyslexia, advice on early identification and support for dyslexia and professional learning modules are available on the Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit.

We fund Dyslexia Scotland’s helpline, advice service and networks for dyslexic children and young people and their families. Details of Dyslexia Scotland’s helpline and how you can get involved are available on their website.   

Autism: supporting children and young people

We published the Learning/ Intellectual disability and autism: Towards Transformation Plan in March 2021. This looks at the actions needed to shape supports, services and attitudes to ensure the human rights of autistic people and people with learning/ intellectual disabilities are respected, protected and that they are empowered to live their lives the same as everyone else.

In collaboration with Education Scotland, we created free online modules on autism and inclusive practice, hosted by the Open University. These support educational practitioners to develop an understanding of autism and how to support their autistic learners and families within an inclusive approach. We also refreshed the Autism Toolbox, a free online resource containing research, strategies and guidance for practitioners and families.

Additional Support for Learning Review Action Plan

In 2019, we asked Angela Morgan to carry out a review of implementation of Additional Support for Learning to understand better the issues that are affecting children and young people get the support they need with their learning. This review made a number of recommendations about how we could work together to improve the experiences of children and young people, setting a clear direction in how we can continue to build on progress we have already made.    

We published our joint action plan with COSLA and ADES in October 2020, setting 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. This was updated in November 2021 to show the progress that we had made. 

A key part of this work, was the development of a vision statement for success which has been created by the Young Ambassadors for Inclusion, a group of secondary school-aged pupils who have a range of additional support needs and attend a variety of school provision.

In summer 2022, the Young Ambassadors for Inclusion produced a resource pack for schools to support meaningful participation of children and young people with additional support needs. Earlier in the year they also launched the Success Looks Different Awards to showcase how schools support and celebrate the achievements of pupils with additional support needs. The vision statement remains the driver for all our engagement work with children and young people to support the delivery of the Additional Support for Learning action plan.

In November 2022 we published our second progress report providing an update on work undertaken since the previous update and summarising the actions we will continue to take over the course of this Parliament to deliver the recommendations from Angela Morgan's review. An easy read version as well as summaries for children and young people and parents and carers are also available.

The progress report should be read alongside the updated action plan. This builds on progress outlined in the original joint action plan published in October 2020 and the update in November 2021. It provides further detail on the work that has been completed, the work that is underway, and the work we intend to carry out over the next 18 months.

Delivery of the actions set out in our joint action plan, will require continuous review. We will continue to work closely with our key partners to ensure that we bring about the deep change necessary to achieve our ambition that all children and young people are valued, respected, included and supported to thrive.

Doran Review implementation

We are taking forward the long-term recommendations of the Doran Review to improve the delivery of education services for children and young people with complex additional support needs. This work is being led by the National Strategic Commissioning Group.

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.


Back to top