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.

5 Delivering inclusion

35. This section is for schools, teachers and practitioners to help guide their inclusive practice.

36. The core expectations of our inclusive approach in Scotland focus on being present, participating, achieving and supported.

37. This section examines how to deliver inclusion in school and outside school, focusing on eight key areas:

  • Inclusive school values and ethos
  • Leadership
  • Constructive challenge to attitudes
  • Evaluation of planning process
  • Capacity to deliver inclusion
  • Parental and carer engagement
  • Early intervention, prevention and strong relationships
  • Removal of barriers to learning

38. In each of these areas there is a strong focus on children’s participation – it is essential that they are active participants in the decisions which are being made about their education.

39. Building on How good is our school? (4 th edition) ( HGIOS4), this section is intended as a starting point for school leaders of all types of provision. It highlights examples of existing best practice in Scotland across all sectors.

40. This section directs all school leaders and staff, to think further about how they can incorporate, and build upon, the factors outlined in this section to create an inclusive approach.

Inclusive school values and ethos

41. Scotland’s inclusive values and ethos are founded on a fundamental respect for the value of diversity. The following example from Nithsdale Road Nursery, Glasgow, where roughly 70% of children have English as an additional language, clearly demonstrates an inclusive ethos and values which engage children, and their families, in their learning.

Nithsdale Road Nursery, Glasgow
Staff are committed to developing and promoting children’s home language while at the same time ensuring that children develop their skills in English. Bilingual story-telling sessions are run by staff. Families borrow bilingual and English story sacks to help them develop story-telling routines at home. A visiting teacher who supports children who have English as an Additional Language provides supplementary input to identified children. This supports their acquisition and usage of English language.

A small number of children with additional support needs have individual targets to help them make progress in their learning and social skills. All members of staff carry small laminated cards on which the individual targets are printed. Staff members keep these cards to hand at all times in order that they can remind themselves of the individual targets and ensure that they support the children’s learning needs.

Staff make good use of the twice daily staff meetings to exchange information about children and ensure that key information from the home to the ELC setting, and vice versa, is passed on. Staff collaborate with a range of partners, including speech and language therapists and physiotherapists, where support is required for individual children. For example, to meet the needs of one child with a range of complex additional support needs, staff in the setting liaised with a specialist nursery for children with complex needs and arranged a shared placement between both establishments for this child.


42. Strong leadership is needed to promote the inclusive ethos and values and disseminate them throughout the school community. Leadership is not just held with the Headteacher – distributed leadership at all levels is needed to deliver real change and progress. This includes leadership from children and young people in their pupil councils or in other forms of representation to the school leadership team.

43. Staff must be empowered and challenged to use their knowledge of the children and young people in their class to drive forward inclusive practice. As the leader within their classroom, their approach, their attitude and their vision will be the one predominately experienced by the children and young people in their class.

44. Headteachers should create and perpetuate an inclusive ethos and vision while encouraging and supporting collaborative self-evaluation for self-improvement.

45. At Cardinal Winning Secondary School, a special school in Glasgow, the Headteacher has a clearly articulated vision for inclusion which looks as much at the experience of children and young people as it does at the wider inclusive ethos and vision of the school.

Cardinal Winning Secondary School, Glasgow
The Headteacher is clear that a key aim of the school is for all young people to feel safe, happy, included and valued in the school. He believes that it is not possible to ‘gift a child or young person inclusion: they have to feel that they are included’. The school works very hard to ensure that young people do feel included. He places a strong emphasis on staff knowing young people’s range of needs, including their additional support needs.

Constructive challenge to attitudes

46. The Scottish Government believes that inclusion benefits all children. In HGIOS4 quality indicator ( QI) 3.1, the features of an inclusive and equal school are well set out. Schools must ensure inclusion and equality lead to improved outcomes for all children and young people and that diversity is understood, valued and celebrated. It is essential that high expectations are retained for all pupils.

47. In the below example of New Stevenston Primary School in North Lanarkshire, staff are particularly effective at recognising the benefit inclusion brings to all children.

New Stevenston Primary School, North Lanarkshire
Staff recognise that having children with additional support needs in their school benefits all children as it helps children develop positive attitudes about diversity for later life. It also builds capacity in all staff to support a range of needs across the mainstream and Language and Communication Support Centre ( LCSC).

Children in the LCSC and in mainstream classes feel that they benefit from the model of inclusion used in the school. They have age-appropriate friendships with mainstream and LCSC peers. Children in the LCSC are able to articulate the ASD traits and difficulties they have. They feel that staff and children across the school support them and use a range of strategies to help them learn and develop their skills. Children have well-developed, positive attitudes to each other and they see the benefits of the school embracing differences and diversity. Children say that staff are inspiring role-models and everyone has high expectations of them.

48. In a special environment, retaining high expectations for all children and young people is also very important and sometimes difficult. At Cardinal Winning Secondary School, this is particularly challenging due to the nature of some of the additional support needs.

Cardinal Winning Secondary School, Glasgow
One of the main challenges within a specialist provision is to ensure that staff and parents recognise that there is a balance between supporting the young people with the most significant needs to achieve and do their best, whilst recognising that there are young people who might be able to take on more challenge to help them move beyond the safety of the school environment.

Staff in Cardinal Winning recognise that some young people need the consistently high level of support that can be provided in their setting. However other young people may benefit from flexible provision that includes them in mainstream school for part of the time.

49. Teachers want the best for each and every child and young person in their class. The desire to provide a certain level of teaching and a level of support is what makes our teachers in Scotland exceptional, dedicated professionals. When there is a child or young person who has a particular additional support need, the teacher will want to feel that they have the training and the experience to support that child or young person as best they can.

50. Training removes stigma because training breeds confidence. If a teacher has been given a set of tools to use then they have the ability to adapt – without those tools, it is more likely that additional support needs can be seen as a barrier to the other children and young people in the classroom and not the benefit it can be.

Evaluation of planning process

51. In HGIOS4 QI 2.3 and 2.4, several key themes of planning for learning are highlighted. All of these are relevant to the wider planning process, but this section is focussing on how the plans that are in place are formed, reflected upon and continually improved.

52. New Stevenston Primary are particularly effective at incorporating the teacher’s reflections on a child’s progress with the targets they co-create with the children in their class.

New Stevenston Primary, North Lanarkshire
Teachers in mainstream classes work very closely with specialist teachers in the LCSC to plan for individual children. They use resources, including staff resources, effectively to support progression in children’s learning. They assess children’s progress continually, and use a wide range of strategies skilfully to ensure that every child is supported and challenged.

Teachers differentiate learning experiences according to each child’s needs and have high expectations that all children can and will make progress. Staff work closely together to plan lessons in which children make progress over time. Class teachers and LCSC staff ensure that learning opportunities meet the needs of all children.

Children work with their teachers to set themselves targets for their work. This makes them ambitious, responsible learners who push themselves to achieve high standards.

53. Effective self and system evaluation is at the heart of impactful school improvement planning.

54. As HGIOS4 QI 2.3 outlines, schools should have ‘manageable processes to monitor and evaluate learners’ progress’ which provides ‘clear information on their attainment across all curriculum areas’. [1]

55. The example of St Eunan’s Primary School in West Dunbartonshire highlights the relationship between positive communication, relationships and effective evaluation. Children and young people are active participants in their learning.

St Eunan’s Primary School, West Dunbartonshire
Pupil voice is highly valued in the school. All children are able to contribute their views about school improvement and development through the learning and teaching focus group run by the school. As ‘change makers’ they are given the opportunity to feedback their views about their lessons. Staff value their input.

The experiences and outcomes of the curriculum are used well as a cornerstone to school improvement. Across the school, teachers make very good use of inter-disciplinary learning to connect learning in mathematics and numeracy to other areas of the curriculum. As a result, children can talk about how they apply their numeracy and mathematics skills across their learning.

56. As with all school improvement planning, the most important factor is to understand what specific challenges to inclusion your school is facing and then to assess your capacity to deliver inclusion in the face of these challenges.

Capacity to deliver inclusion

57. Capacity building is an important focus across education, not just in the context of mainstreaming and inclusion.

58. In the case study below from Auchinleck Academy, a secondary school in East Ayrshire, partnership and additional resource is often used to enhance the experience of the children and young people and increase capacity to deliver inclusion. Crucially, this resource can take many different forms: more specialist and support staff; employing different programmes to develop particular skills; or targeting different experiences that the school can facilitate. All schools should have a shared focus on flexibility and on the individual child or young person.

Auchinleck Academy, East Ayrshire
Staff have good knowledge and understanding of the needs of their learners and the local community. Staff make good use of intelligence gained through partners such as Community Police, Vibrant Communities and the Educational Psychology Service. This allows them to adapt and shape the personal and social education curriculum, associated programmes and interventions to the requirements of young people. The school’s strong partnership work opens up options for young people.

Parental and carer engagement

59. HGIOS4 QI 2.5 focuses on how schools can build positive relationships with families in order to improve learning and achievement. It also specifically highlights the role partnership working with others in the community can play to enhance support for families and, therefore, enhanced outcomes in key areas. The National Improvement Framework driver of Parental Engagement reflects further on how to engage parents and carers.

New Stevenston Primary School
Parents of children who attend the LCSC are fully committed to and engaged with the school. Parents feel strongly that the support provided in New Stevenston is appropriate for their child. They feel that the balance of mainstream learning with support is a positive feature of the school.

Parents spoke of their previous anxieties when they realised that their child’s difficulties in language and communication could make it difficult for them to be taught in a regular mainstream setting. Some parents feel they ‘had to fight’ to get a placement for their child in the LCSC. All are very pleased with the placement and with the progress that their child is making.

They are particularly pleased at the level of communication on a regular, often daily, basis that they receive on their child’s progress from the school. They feel that their children are making very good progress in learning and in developing social skills.

The only remaining areas of concern for parents are that they believe there is on-going uncertainty about stability of placement at New Stevenston. They worry that their child may be required to move to another setting when their needs are reviewed. A further concern that parents share is that due to them living out with the school’s catchment area, they feel their child is not always part of a friendship community out of school. The school has taken steps to overcome this by inviting children and parents to regular events in the school.

60. HGIOS4 QI 2.7 outlines the shared foundations of partnerships, specifically a ‘shared vision, values and aims which put the needs of all learners at the core of our partnership working’ [2] . Positive relationships with partners are based on engagement, communication and a mutual appreciation of the work being undertaken to support children and young people to achieve their full potential.

61. Having these positive relationships in place will mean that schools can be more proactive and flexible, involving the appropriate and necessary partners when and where necessary.

Early intervention, prevention and strong relationships

62. In HGIOS4 QI 2.5, the importance of early intervention and prevention is set out, particularly as regards the impact of socio-economic circumstances. Staff, in tandem with partners, should be informed and proactive, working to mitigate the impacts of socio-economic circumstances as part of removing barriers to learning.

63. Strong, positive relationships are essential to this work – not only between partners but with the families themselves. Just as the voice of children and young people should be listened to in their learning plans, ‘families should be consulted in a meaningful way when staff are looking at progression from their service.’

Removal of barriers to learning

64. I HGIOS4 QI 2.4 notes that when removing barriers to learning, ‘positive and proactive steps’ should be taken and this includes ensuring that: ‘All children with a disability, health issue or social or emotional needs benefit from high-quality targeted support.’ [3] Partners are crucial in this process to provide targeted and specialist support in all environments and to ensure the improvement work being undertaken in the school is also being reinforced at home.


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