National Strategic Commissioning Group minutes: December 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 13 December 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Margaret Orr, Independent Chair
  • Craighalbert Centre, representing grant-aided special schools
  • CALL Scotland, representing CALL, Scottish Sensory Centre and Enquire
  • The National Parent Forum of Scotland
  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities
  • Scottish Council for Independent Schools
  • Association of the Directors of Education in Scotland
  • Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland
  • Coalition of Care & Support Providers in Scotland and Educating Through Care Scotland
  • Education Scotland
  • Scottish Government


  • Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland
  • Association of Scottish Principal Educational Psychologists

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions, apologies

The Chair welcomed members to the meeting, the first since 4 May 2023. Apologies were noted for today's meeting.

Note of last meeting (4 May 2023)

The Chair provided updates on the actions from the previous meeting. Group members were to provide feedback to the Scottish Government on the report's findings, these were recieved ahead of the publication of the report in September 2023. Members were also asked to share their comments on priority areas identified by the research that could be considered for future projects, this should include any suggestions on areas that would benefit from further research. Comments and suggestions on were received by CALL Scotland and considered in the development of the discussion paper to be discussed under item 3.

A copy of the note was circulated with the papers for this meeting and has been published on the Scottish Government’s website.

Next steps following research

The Scottish Government introduced a paper outlining potential next steps that could improve complex additional support needs provision and inform the strategic commissioning of services. These options follow the publication of the research report in September 2023. These options have been identified by the Scottish Government and informed by the feedback received from CALL Scotland. The options are:

  1. Professional learning:
  • Promote an understanding of complex additional support needs. While there is no universally accepted definition of complex additional support needs, consideration can be given to how best to promote the description used in the 10 year strategy and the research to education staff, parents, carers and children and young people. The aim would be to further enhance decision making around support for these pupils.
  • This would link to work underway (and previously agreed) to explore opportunities to include complex additional support needs content in existing teacher leadership programmes (initially focussing on Into Headship) as well as the trialling of week-long placements in special schools for depute heads from mainstream provisions (working in collaboration with the special school heads). The placement schools would be identified from local authority, independent and GASS provision.
  • Consideration could be given to the professional learning opportunities available for a broader range of education staff. The aim would be to further embed a culture of inclusiveness. This would link with work underway to deliver the Additional Support for Learning (ASL) Action Plan in relation to professional learning, for both teachers and pupil support staff, coordinated support plans and communications.  
  1. Parental advice: Explore ways to raise awareness of advice, information, rights and legal representation available to parents and carers of children with complex additional support needs. Consider ways in which advice is currently provided, any barriers and how to overcome them. This would link with work underway to deliver the ASL action plan regarding communications.
  2. Presumption of mainstream: Undertake a mapping exercise to identify at what stages education staff, parents and carers and early learning and childcare providers are made aware of education authority duties and the existing guidance in this area. The aim of this exercise would be to identify any barriers to the consistent understanding and application of current policy. Depending on timings, this work may help inform the suggested mapping exercise on placing decisions (option d).
  3. Placements for children with complex additional support needs: Undertake a mapping exercise exploring the decision-making process around school placements (and any significant variability across authorities). Consider the balance of education and care needs, at what stage information is communicated to parents and what barriers local authorities currently face. While this is entirely an area of local authority decision making, the aim of this exercise would be to identify ways in which inconsistent practice can be reduced. Findings may also inform the delivery of the national ASL information, advice and advocacy services for children and their parents. There would also be alignment with the ASL action plan delivery; in particular, actions focused on Coordinated Support Plans and the statutory ASL code of practice update.

During the discussion, the following points were raised:

  • The complex additional support needs network, facilitated by Education Scotland, could help inform the delivery of any options agreed.
  • HM Inspectors of Education could also be involved with the work relating to the possibility of mainstream placements in special schools.
  • Clarity on the available budget would be needed before options are agreed. Agreement in principle can be sought at this stage.
  • Clarity on how these options would assist with the development of a framework for the strategic commissioning of services to support complex additional support needs provision would be welcome.
  • Options to improve teacher leadership opportunities (option a) and parental awareness (option b) are welcome.
  • Further consideration could be given to the merits of the mapping exercise options (c and d).

Subject to members’ feedback, the Scottish Government will prepare detailed proposals, including associated costs and timescales, for members’ agreement. If agreed, these options would then be put to Scottish Ministers before proceeding.


  • Members were asked to provide written feedback on the options, or alternatives, early in the New Year.

Any other business

The Chair noted that the Scottish Government is seeking new representatives from Social Work Scotland and the NHS Chief Executives network. The Scottish Government will update group members when representatives have been agreed.

The Scottish Government is in the process of updating the Doran Review and the Commissioning Group’s webpages on the Scottish Government’s website. This will include updates to membership and consideration of any unpublished notes of previous meetings (before April 2021).


  • Scottish Government to update the webpages for the group and review the publication of minutes before April 2021. Target completion by Summer 2024.

Date of next meeting / 2024 meeting schedule

The Chair advised that the group met once in 2021 and twice in 2023. Business in relation to the research was agreed by correspondence in 2022. In order to progress any agreed next steps and progress the group’s workplan, members agreed to hybrid meetings four times a year (quarterly). The Scottish Government secretariat will be in touch to arrange these meetings.

Scottish Government

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