Review of additional support for learning implementation: report

Report from an independent review of the implementation of the additional support for learning legislation which began in September 2019 and concluded with the submission of this report and recommendations to Scottish Ministers and COSLA. Executive summary:, Young people’s version:

Theme 5: Workforce development and support

The Review findings and how to read this report section emphasised the need to retain the perspective that all the themes interact with and reinforce each other. That is particularly important in this section. The recommendations attached to this Theme cannot, in isolation, drive the changes needed.

Firstly, there is substantial evidence that where implementation of Additional Support for Learning works well, it is primarily due to the commitment and determination of individuals among teachers and school staff, senior school leadership teams and service managers. They drive delivery despite the barriers highlighted by the other themes and despite not all of the key conditions for implementation and delivery, already referred to under other themes, being in place.

Secondly, as emphasised under Theme 2 : Mainstreaming and Inclusion, the system must be fit for the profile of children and young people as they are now and are projected for the future, not as they were in the past.

Therefore, workforce planning must anticipate the values, skills and knowledge needed for the 30.9% children and young people in Scotland's schools with an additional support need. We need the whole workforce to expect to be part of a system that supports the learning of all children and young people. The distribution of the 30.9% will be variable; -especially where factors associated with poverty and inequality provision underpin or exacerbate other conditions, but the whole system must have the capacity and the will to be fully inclusive.

Unfortunately, we cannot assume and take for granted that all individual professionals are signed up to the principles of inclusion and the presumption of mainstreaming. Evidence emerged in the course of this work, which raises the deeply uncomfortable fact that not all professionals are. Values and beliefs, culture and mind-set are fundamental and there is more work to do in this regard.

It is also true that some professionals who believe in the principles are disillusioned by not having seen those principles translate into practice in terms of the key conditions for implementation.

Others have shared their core belief that their role should only be to teach children and young people capable of learning within traditional academic standards.

The increased and increasing impact of poverty and inequality on children and young people with social, emotional and behavioural needs and other barriers appears to be reinforcing these views, dividing children and young people with additional support needs into "deserving" and "undeserving". This is not compatible with the legislation, which entitles all eligible children and young people equally.

Children and young people, their families and peer professionals have all shared their experience or provided their perspective confirming that these attitudes are an aspect of the environment. It is uncomfortable and difficult. Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged and addressed.

Again the combination of key conditions for implementation are the relevant framework for action around this, ensuring there is a sound basis and confidence for support and challenge when values are not evident in practice.


The Review has heard from leaders of schools in affluent areas and in geographically isolated areas where the number of children and young people with an additional support need is small. However, the increased likelihood and increased complexity of conditions since the legislation was passed requires a school workforce everywhere who have the mind-set and practice skill base to respond confidently and positively. That is inclusive of teachers who may work intermittently with children and young people with additional support needs as well as those who spend their career with groups with differing conditions and needs.

Currently there is minimal requirement for focus on Additional Support for Learning as part of Initial Teacher Education (ITE). That is of particular concern for student teachers on the 9 month Post Graduate course. The Review heard from Probationary teachers in their first year of teaching whose only awareness of Additional Support for Learning had been a short input on legislation and who felt ill prepared in terms of knowledge, understanding and practice skills. This was particularly difficult if their mentor during their probationary year did not role model a commitment to the values of inclusion in practice.

That is not the only disconnect. This Review heard testimony that the challenges associated with Additional Support for Learning are dominating the time of many school leadership teams and service managers at the next level above. The loss of focused career progression pathways in Additional Support for Learning practice development and leadership have been highlighted as reinforcing the lack of parity for children and young people and practitioners within education.

The Review has met with or received testimony about many teachers who are inspirational. Common characteristics are inclusive personal and professional values, which are evident in good communication, relationship and trust building skills.

Their leaders, peers, families and children and young people all recognise this as an essential grounding and underpinning critical success factor for children and young people to learn and flourish. Relationships and trust are consistently highlighted as the most essential grounding for practitioners working in all services that work with people, especially people who are vulnerable.

Yet currently in teacher education and ongoing development, these personal aptitudes are overlooked and assumed. Acknowledgement of the value of human connection in education, especially for children and young people who are frightened or distressed, equally requires acknowledgement of how being humane within the boundaries of a professional role impacts on practitioners.

Students, probationary and qualified teachers need safe and respectful opportunities to reflect on and understand how developing relationships of trust and genuine connection impacts on them personally and on professional identity.

Pupil Support Assistants

Pupil Support Assistants (PSAs) are highly regarded for the key role they play in supporting children and young people. Contributors to the Review have expressed this very strongly.

However, the overall view from PSAs themselves is that they don't feel recognised or respected within the system for the role that they play. This was described, for example, both in terms of involvement in communications and remuneration. Also the evidence overall confirms that they appear to be the least supported and invested in, in relation to learning and development.

That investment is essential to ensure that their knowledge and skills equip them for the role that they play. However, the investment also needs to be in understanding and ensuring that their focus is best deployed for the child or young person.

The investment of £15 million in Pupil Support Assistants announced in 2019 establishes a vital opportunity to identify these factors, drawing on emerging research[41] and the practice experience of PSAs and Teachers.

Two areas require a particular focus. Firstly, in regard to integration of the PSA role into communication and child planning structures. PSA staff often offer experience and understanding of a child or young person's experiences and triggers. This vital insight should be included in all required information policies and protocols in order to enhance early intervention and a consistent response. Secondly, to consider how and where one to one time can best help to support and integrate children and young people within the class and to provide individual support outwith the class including for safety of the child or young person or others.

In clarifying these areas of focus, there is also an opportunity to articulate the complementarity of the PSA role, and remit, and clear differences in responsibility to professional teaching and teachers. This can support confidence for all individuals across the school workforce and ensure there are no barriers to good working relationships.

Recommendation 5.1 Teacher Education and Development

Teacher recruitment, selection, education and professional development and learning processes must align with the changed and changing profile of children and young people in Scotland, ensuring:

  • All teachers hold and enact professional values of inclusion and inclusive practice and see this as a core part of their role.[42] (Codes of Conduct/Standards)
  • All teachers understand what additional support needs are. They are clear about their role in supporting the identification of additional support needs and the need to adapt their teaching to ensure a meaningful learning experience for all their learners.
  • All teacher education and development includes nationally specified practice and skills development in supporting learners with additional support needs, as a core element.
  • Practice learning and development at local level must include where and how to access specialists' expertise and support.
  • Communication, relationship building and positive mediation skills development are incorporated and embedded into teacher education and development, supported by coaching and mentoring opportunities.
  • Parity of career progression, pathway structures and opportunities for specialist teachers of Additional Support for Learning:
    • There should be a first teaching qualification in additional support needs available during Initial Teacher Education; and
    • The career path proposal under consideration by the SNCT[43] to develop new career pathways[44] should have an additional strand for Additional Support for Learning.
  • The focus and methods for teacher education and practice learning are directly informed and developed by the feedback of teachers.
  • Innovative and partnership approaches to practice learning should be developed including delivery and participation of children, young people, parents and carers.

Recommendation 5.2 Pupil Support Assistants

  • The Classroom Support Staff working group must, as part of their work, undertake a review of roles and remit of Pupil Support Assistants. This must include the development of clear specifications for how classroom teacher and pupil support assistant roles interact and complement each other. It must also consider standards of practice, learning pathways, career progression routes and remuneration.



Back to top