Consultation on excellence and equity for all: guidance on the presumption of mainstreaming

The guidance aims to ensures that local authorities have the guidance required to help their decision making in applying the presumption of mainstreaming.

1 Introduction

1. The purpose of this document is to provide guidance on the statutory requirement on education authorities to provide education in a mainstream school unless certain exceptions apply. This non-statutory guidance will present a vision for mainstreaming, building on the best available evidence on inclusive approaches to education. It will aim to touch upon other, complementary policies as part of a joined-up approach. The guidance has been developed to support all local authorities, all schools, and all teachers and practitioners. Further guidance for parents and carers will be developed to complement this document. It should be noted that this guidance also applies to early learning and childcare settings.

2. The Scottish Government believes that mainstreaming cannot be delivered without inclusion. Our vision for inclusive education in Scotland is below and has been influenced by research by Professors Mel Ainscow and Susie Miles :

‘Inclusive education in Scotland starts from the belief that education is a human right and the foundation for a more just society. An inclusive approach, with an appreciation of diversity and an ambition for all to achieve to their full potential, is essential to getting it right for every child and raising attainment for all. Inclusion is the cornerstone to help us achieve equity and excellence in education for all of our children and young people.

3. There are four key principles underpinning this guidance and it must help to:

  • improve outcomes and support the delivery of excellence and equity for all children and young people
  • meet the needs of all children and young people
  • support and empower children and young people, parents and carers, teachers, practitioners and communities
  • outline an inclusive approach which identifies and addresses barriers to learning for all children.

4. Supporting the delivery of these principles are four key features of inclusion which can be used to measure whether or not inclusion is being delivered for all pupils. These are:

  • Present
  • Participating
  • Achieving
  • Supported

These features will be explored further throughout this document.

5. In the years since the legislative requirement was enacted through the Standards in Scotland’s Schools Etc. Act 2000, the legislative and policy landscape in Scotland has shifted considerably. Milestones have included, but are not limited to:

  • Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils’ Educational Records) (Scotland) Act 2002;
  • Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended);
  • the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence ( CfE);
  • the introduction of Getting it Right for Every Child ( GIRFEC);
  • Equality Act 2010;
  • Children and Young People Act 2014;
  • and, most recently, the National Improvement Framework ( NIF) in the Education (Scotland) Act 2016 and education reforms;
  • Initiatives such as the Scottish Attainment Challenge and the Pupil Equity Fund have also sought to close the poverty-related attainment gap and empower schools to help those children and young people who need support most.

6. Taken together, these frameworks require education authorities to consider a wide range of issues for children and young people. In addition to giving effect to the presumption of mainstream education, authorities also need to:

  • Identify and provide the support required to enable children and young people to overcome barriers to their learning, including looked after children and young people;
  • Prevent discrimination of pupils with disabilities and make reasonable adjustments to ensure equality of opportunity in learning;
  • Plan for accessibility of the curriculum, school information and physical access;
  • Consider the wellbeing of children and young people.

7. All these aspects underpin the decision about where a child or young person will learn and they contribute to the clear, single vision for Scottish education – excellence and equity for every child and young person in Scotland.

8. At present, despite the strength of the legislative and policy basis and the ambitious vision for all children and young people, more needs to be done, and more can be done, to get it right for every child and to ensure that they are all experiencing equity and excellence.


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