National Strategic Commissioning Group minutes: May 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on the 4th May 2023.

Attendees and apologies

Margaret Orr, (Chair)

Craighalbert Centre, representing grant-aided special schools (GASS)

CALL Scotland, representing CALL, Scottish Sensory Centre and Enquire

The National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)

Association of Scottish Principal Educational Psychologists (ASPEP)

Association of the Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)

Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland

Coalition of Care & Support Providers in Scotland and Educating Through Care Scotland (EtCS)

Education Scotland

Scottish Government 


Items and actions

Welcome, introductions, apologies

The Chair welcomed members to the meeting, the first since 28 April 2021. Apologies were noted from the following organisations:

  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities
  • Scottish Council for Independent Schools

New representatives

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.

Note of the last meeting

The last meeting was held on 28 April 2021. A copy of the note was circulated with the papers for this meeting and has been published on the Scottish Government’s website.

Presentation of research findings

A copy of the final draft of the research report was circulated in advance of the meeting. Jenni and Ali from Humanly were invited to present their research findings to the group.


Humanly undertook fieldwork in person during the winter of 2022-23 at a range of educational settings, including mainstream schools with and without a specialist unit, special schools, independent special schools, and grant-aided special schools. This involved 11 schools across 7 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities. Overall, there were 202 participants, including 91 children and young people with complex additional support needs, 18 parents and carers, 73 members of school staff (including class teachers, pupil support staff and senior leaders), and 20 stakeholders from the wider system of support. Their work was overseen by the Research Advisory Group, which acted on behalf of the National Strategic Commissioning Group.


The research employed qualitative research using semi-structured interviews and a range of focus groups. In addition, researchers spent time at the different establishments during the fieldwork, often with tours guided by pupils around their school.


The group was provided with a summary of the research findings against the four themes:


  • the research found that most school staff and parents had a high awareness of national policies relating to the support of children and young people with complex additional support needs
  • most of these participants believed that the intent of these policies is positive
  • some participants highlighted a perceived conflict between some policies, for example Getting it Right for Every Child and the presumption of mainstream education


  • positive relationships were overwhelmingly the most important factor in helping children and young people thrive. School environment and opportunities to connect with the local community were also mentioned as important factors
  • practice varies across Scotland, and this is perceived by some parents as a ‘postcode lottery’


  • positive experience of partnerships and teams around a child in early years settings
  • perception of less access to specialist support from educational psychologists, speech and language and occupational therapists in recent years

Perspectives of parents, carers, children and young people:

  • positive relationships with staff and a supportive friendship group at school were important factors in children’s positive experience of school

  • positive experiences of transition support were reported

In addition, a number of cross-cutting themes emerged:

A perceived reduction in resources:

  • this was raised as creating challenges by many teachers, support staff, senior school staff, parents and system stakeholders

The importance of staff:

  • staff at every level were reported as integral to positive environments and experiences for children and young people with complex additional support needs


  • there was a perception amongst some parents and school staff that national policy regarding placements is not always implemented as it is intended

The importance of training:

  • there was recognition by participants of the positive impact that training can have, but also of the challenges in accessing it
  • there was also recognition amongst many staff of the value of learning from peers and children and young people

The Chair thanked Jenni and Ali, and the wider team at Humanly, on behalf of the group, for their work throughout the project, their presentation and the report.

Discussion of key findings and conclusion

The Chair invited group members to comment on the research findings and how they could inform the next steps of the group’s work to improve outcomes for children and young people with complex additional support needs.  During the discussion, the following comments were made:

  • many of the findings reflect those highlighted in Angela Morgan’s review of the implementation of additional support for learning in 2020
  • further consideration or research could be given to identify any inconsistencies in the application of duties by residential authorities regarding placing decisions for pupils with complex additional support needs and how they can be resolved
  • consideration could be given to raising parental awareness of their rights to make a complaint and the advocacy support available under the additional support for learning dispute resolution mechanisms.
  • it was noted that there was a perception of an increase in children and young people with complex additional support needs
  • the report highlights the question of resourcing for meeting children and young people’s complex additional support needs
  • it was noted that the findings are a representative sample and the caveats associated with that are important to recognise in the consideration of next steps
  • further consideration could be given to the role of different partners (health, social care, and peripatetic education support staff) and the professional learning opportunities available to support staff. The latter is an area where work is underway already to develop a new national Inclusion, Wellbeing and Equalities professional learning programme aimed at all staff working in education at all levels (early learning and childcare and school)
  • the findings in relation to the physical school environment could be considered immediately, at school and authority level
  • the findings reinforce what is happening on the ground in terms of current provision and provide a valuable up-to-date perspective on some of the longer-term issues that the Doran Review and the ASL action plan are aimed at addressing
  • findings in relation to access to technology and digital learning reflect some group members understanding of issues with the current level of provision
  • links between the description and identification of complex additional support needs and pupils registered as disabled could be more clearly made in the annual pupil census


  • group members were asked to feedback any further comments on the report’s findings to the Scottish Government by Thursday 18 May

Next steps

The Chair advised members that the research and work to explore ways of including complex additional support needs in existing teacher leadership programmes were the two areas of work identified in 2021. The leadership work is continuing and a fresh round of discussions were held with interested partners in February 2023. The Chair is continuing to engage partners and will provide a further update on this work at the next meeting of the group.

Timeline for publishing the report

The Scottish Government updated the group on plans for the publication of the research report. The Scottish Government is leading on the publication arrangements, including due diligence, and will liaise with partners on the group ahead of the agreed publication date.

Implication of research findings for current and future Doran projects

The Scottish Government updated the group on planned next steps following the research report’s publication. The findings of the research that relate to education leadership can directly inform ongoing work to explore the development of a pilot of complex additional support needs content in existing teacher leadership programmes. The Chair and the Scottish Government will keep group members informed of progress with this work.

Implications of the research findings for the delivery of the additional support for learning action plan will be considered by the Scottish Government and the ASL project board. While no new actions are being considered, it is anticipated that findings will inform the delivery of existing actions.

Wider implications of the research findings for future national strategic commissioning projects will be considered by the Scottish Government, building on feedback from group members. Suggestions for next steps will be shared with the group ahead of the next meeting.


  • group members were 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. Suggestions should be sent to the Scottish Government by 18 May 2023

Any other business

No items were raised.

Date of next meeting

The next meeting of the group will take place once any further suggestions from group members have been received on next steps.

Scottish Government

Back to top