Early learning and childcare: statutory guidance - July 2021

Statutory guidance to education authorities to support them in exercising their functions in relation to the delivery of early learning and childcare from 1 August 2021.

Additional support needs

Education authorities have duties under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 and should have regard to this when providing funded early learning and childcare to eligible children with additional support needs.

119. Children and young people will progress differently, depending on their circumstances, but, as enshrined in the UNCRC, every child and young person has the right to expect appropriate support from adults to allow them to develop as fully as possible across each of the wellbeing indicators and curricular areas. Education authorities should seek to engage with parents with children who are disabled or have other additional support needs as part of their duty to consult under Section 50 of the 2014 Act.

120. The 2004 Act provides the legal framework for identifying and addressing the additional support needs of children and young people who face a barrier, or barriers, to learning. The 2004 Act aims to ensure that all children and young people are provided with the necessary support to help them work towards achieving their full potential. It also promotes collaborative working among all those supporting children and young people and sets out the rights of children, young people and parents within the system.

121. Section 1(1) of the 2004 Act explains that a child or young person has additional support needs where, for whatever reason, they are likely to be unable, without the provision of additional support, to benefit from school education. Education includes the provision of early learning and childcare. Education authorities are required to have regard to the 2004 Act for any eligible young child entitled to the funded early learning and childcare entitlement with additional support needs.

122. Statutory Guidance on the 2004 Act is contained in the Additional Support for Learning Code of Practice (ASL Code of Practice).

123. Education authorities and other agencies (including NHS boards) have a wide range of duties under the 2004 Act. They are required to identify, provide for, and review the additional support needs of their children and young people. In addition, authorities have duties to plan for transitions, to consider placing requests, and to establish co-ordinated support plans where appropriate. Full details of the responsibilities on education authorities and other agencies can be found in Chapter 1 of the ASL Code of Practice which supports implementation of the 2004 Act.

124. Following identification of additional support needs, a plan should be established as to how those needs will be met, and reviewed. There are a range of planning mechanisms used by education authorities to meet children's needs and the types of support will vary depending on assessed need. Planning approaches will be dependent on the collaboration of all relevant agencies involved in delivering services to ensure that children and young people's barriers to learning are identified and addressed.

125. The National Practice Model, part of the GIRFEC approach, is well established good practice and provides a consistent framework for practitioners across all services to plan for children's wellbeing. In certain circumstances a child may require a Co-ordinated Support Plan. This statutory plan supports the co‑ordination of support across agencies for children who have complex or multiple needs which require support from education and at least one other agency. Where a co-ordinated support plan is required, it is important that the process of developing it is integrated fully with the planning and review of the Child's Plan as outlined in the ASL Code of Practice. Education authorities' duties to plan for the transition into and from early learning and childcare will also be of relevance for this group of children.

126. A key consideration for young children with additional support needs is the early identification of those needs. A Universal Health Visiting Pathway for Scotland was published in October 2015 and presents a core home visiting programme to be offered to all families by health visitors as a minimum standard.

127. The 2004 Act duties will apply when a child becomes eligible for funded early learning and childcare and so will apply to eligible 2 year olds who are subject to a kinship care order or with a parent appointed guardian or whose parents are in receipt of certain benefits. In relation to those subject to a kinship care order, carers (like any carer or parent) can request that the additional support needs of the child be assessed and this can include a specific type of assessment.

128. The provisions of the 2004 Act apply to looked after 2 year olds. Under section 1(1A) of the 2004 Act a looked after child is deemed to have additional support needs unless or until they are assessed otherwise. This assessment should also include an assessment as to whether a co-ordinated support plan is required.

129. In certain circumstances the duties under the 2004 Act will apply earlier. The 2004 Act imposes a duty on an education authority to provide appropriate additional support for certain disabled children under school age before entitlement to the mandatory amount of early learning and childcare; potentially from birth and generally before the age at which children become eligible for early learning and childcare, where this need is identified[26].

130. Under the Equality Act 2010 responsible bodies have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled young children and provide auxiliary aids and services to avoid substantial disadvantage.[27]

131. Further, under the Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils' Educational Records) (Scotland) Act 2002 responsible bodies have duties to develop and publish accessibility strategies to increase access to the curriculum, the physical environment, and communication.

132. Under the 2004 Act parents can make a placing request for early learning and childcare in relation to a child with additional support needs either within the authority they reside (home authority) or another education authority (host authority) area[28].

133. Where a placing request is successful, the home authority is responsible for the costs of early learning and childcare. They may also provide free transport to the host authority, but are not under a duty to do so. The host authority is therefore not responsible for the costs of the placement or any associated transport. It is therefore essential to confirm transport arrangements with parents to inform their placing request.

134. Information for parents about all of the provisions of the 2004 Act is available from Enquire - the national advice and information service on additional support for learning.


Email: ELCPartnershipForum@gov.scot

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