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 7: Relationships and behaviour

Unmet needs and an inability to express intense, difficult feelings can result in a child or young person expressing these through verbal or physical aggression. This behaviour can be the consequence of a range of issues including, for example, tolerance levels for external stimulation or past or continuing traumatic experiences. The impact and reverberation of this on practitioners and professionals as well as children, young people, and their families must be acknowledged.

There must be support for staff to enable them to alleviate that distress by identifying, as early as possible, what the triggers are that lead to a child or young person communicating in this way, or what has happened in the child's circumstances that they are upset about. That support must enable anticipation, prevention and responses informed by an understanding of the child or young person in the context of a trusting relationship.[49]

The Review has heard from most perspectives that children and young people who communicate through distressed behaviour must be carefully and sensitively considered in the context of the whole span of the Review.

The overall evidence and analysis support the conclusion that the issues that have emerged around relationships and behaviour are the symptoms and consequence of all the intermeshed barriers to successful implementation of the Additional Support for Learning legislation outlined under each theme, for example:

  • That the focus on relationships and behaviour is considered in the context of the child or young person's whole life and journey through education: learning for life.

Also, good relationships and communication with parents and carers, who will understand the finer nuances of their child's behaviour and are able to share their knowledge of situations that their child might find difficult, are invaluable.

This reinforces the conclusion that the theme of relationships and behaviour must be fully integrated into the actions that follow this Review – not separated into a separate policy or practice silo.

The theme of resources has been commented on within the parameters of this Review, but resources are not a standalone issue. Previous comments under, the theme of Mainstreaming and Inclusion, propose that resource must be directed to actions that increase inclusion, not actions that further exclude and stigmatise children and young people.

This is essential, as the Review has evidenced that not all professionals hold the belief that behaviour should be understood as communication.

One aspect of that is where children and young people, who express their distress through their behaviour, are viewed as either more or less "deserving" of attention and support. This is most evident in children and young people who have social, emotional or behavioural needs related to their childhood experiences and family circumstances, and associated with poverty and inequality. As referred to previously, this group of children and young people is one whose parents are least able to advocate for them.

Therefore, a school's culture, ethos, values and team mind-set, evidenced in practice by the school's leadership, is critical in establishing the positive environment in which all children and young people feel included and can flourish. This underpinning is essential for a culture where children and young people are respected. Rights are a prominent reference point for promoting and encouraging positive communications, trust and relationships between staff, children and young people.

It is equally important that there is a culture of trust, positive relationships and respect between staff, across management hierarchies and between peers. This is the basis for providing support, both for skills development and for the impact of working with distressed children and young people.

Positive relationships have emerged as the underpinning factor for supporting children and young people. Professionals must exercise their own personal qualities alongside their professional skills, within a culture and structure of support.

A culture of trust also enables challenge, which is essential where values are not evident in practice.

Positive school cultures develop where the key conditions for implementation are in place:

These are the conditions that enable early intervention and prevention and are underpinned by relationships.

Evidence provided to this Review and consistently through similar listening exercises and research[50] focuses on relationships and trust as a crucial underpinning. Trust is essential to ensure that a 'behaviour management' approach isn't taken as the first response or approach to distressed behaviour. As much of the interaction as possible with children and young people should be preventative. Where adults have to respond to behaviour, this should be grounded in relationships and based on respect for the child and their rights.

This strongly resonates with the findings that early intervention and preventative approaches reduce the need to consider exclusion, physical intervention and seclusion as responses to distressed behaviour. Accepting, respectful approaches are more effective than those that are experienced as punishing and shaming by children and young people.

Separate reviews and initiatives[51] have and are considering the areas of seclusion, exclusion, restraint. For this Review, the evidence from those initiatives has been considered as well as the direct individual and representative contributions.[52]

The evidence heard by this Review has affirmed the themes, concerns and actions already highlighted by these other, more focused, initiatives. Most significantly:

  • Physical Intervention;
  • Seclusion;
  • Restraint; and
  • Exclusions.

Actions from this Review must inform the focus on these themes and concerns by the Scottish Advisory Group on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools (SAGRABIS) and the Additional Support for Learning Implementation Group (ASLIG).

Lastly, whilst it has not been a key focus for this Review, it should be noted that, the physical environments of many schools create significant difficulties for children and young people with particular conditions and increase the likelihood of distressed behaviour. Many of the improvements and solutions in physical environments would appear to be of benefit to all children and young people.

Recommendation 7.1 Relationships and Behaviour

  • The remit of SAGRABIS must be reviewed, and widened, to bring it up to date and in line with emerging knowledge and recommended practices, including the findings of this Review. The membership of the group must be reviewed in line with the refreshed remit.
  • SAGRABIS should have a primary focus on relationships and behaviour, but also the ability to focus on wider additional support for learning issues, developing improvement priorities and ensuring those priorities are reflected at a national, local and regional level. In doing so, SAGRABIS must ensure they work closely with the Additional Support for Learning Implementation Group.



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