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:

Annex C: Additional support needs and associated issues, which act as barriers to learning

Children and young people with additional support needs have many common and shared experiences. They are often conscious that they are 'different' from their peers and are keenly aware about how teachers and schools treat them.

Having an additional support need can mean that children and young people become separated from their peers; feel socially isolated; experience stigma and discrimination; struggle to have their voices and views heard and; may not have their human rights fulfilled. The experience of the child in school is often reflected in families and on parents. The shame and stigma experienced by children can be seen in the 'blame' parents feel from others and experiences where they are not respected and listened to. Taken together, this creates significant, unnecessary pressure for families.

The range of issues which create barriers for children and young people in learning and education .include both diagnosed and undiagnosed conditions and life experiences. Markedly different conditions, such as autism or being a young carer, have a strikingly similar impact on children's lives. For example, a looked after child may feel embarrassed and unsure when they arrive in a new school because of a care placement move. They might not have the proper school uniform, understand the rules of the school or know anyone. A newly arrived asylum seeker might have a very similar experience, with the additional challenge of learning English. Both have similar challenges – but very different circumstances. Both will be deeply affected by how teachers and the school work to meet their needs.

An identified additional support need assists in assessment, planning and delivery of support in school. However, all children and young people are individuals and their need and the response required must respond to the whole child or young person not to the "condition" or "issue" as a discrete problem.

This is a very brief overview of the key issues highlighted to the review with links to sources of understanding and expertise.

Additional support need / Associated issues which act as barriers to learning / Further information and relevant organisations


Impacted by trauma and loss; struggle with attachment and relationships; need support to recover from trauma; readiness to learn affected; experiences a range of behavioural issues.

Scottish Adoption

Armed forces families

Frequent moves of school and community; disrupted learning; separation from parents; living with the worry of a parent on active service; direct experience of loss.

Royal Caledonian Education Trust

Asylum seekers and refugees

Challenged by living in new culture; learning new language; uncertainty about future; living with trauma and loss.

Scottish Refugee Council

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Difficulties in paying attention with lack of focus and concentration; impulsive and unpredictable; hyperactive and unable to sit still; can't plan ahead; struggles to finish tasks.

ADHD Information Services (ADDiss)

Autistic spectrum

Difficulty understanding and participating in social communication; struggles with social interaction; problems with developing and sustaining positive relationships; difficulties in social imagination; may think very rigidly.

National Autistic Society

Scottish Autism

Not Included, Not Engaged, Not Involved

Reach Lanarkshire Autism

Salvesen Mindroom


Feeling frightened and hurt; worried about what will happen next; experiences social isolation.

Respect Me

Children in hospital for long stays

Feel excluded from school; social isolation; missing key learning experiences; impact on physical and mental health.

NHS Health Scotland

Children's Health Scotland

Children in and affected by the Criminal Justice system

Experience of stress and worry; feel excluded and different from peers; risk taking behaviour; impact on physical and mental health.

Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ)


Children whose parents or family members are imprisoned

Feeling ashamed and stigmatised; worrying about imprisoned parent; experience of loss; impact on physical and mental health.

Families Outside

Children and young people affected by chronic illness

Conditions, symptoms and impact can vary widely; education disrupted by medical appointments and hospital admissions; cannot fully participate in school life; struggle with focus and concentration; social isolation; disrupted peer relationships.

NHS Health Scotland

Children's Health Scotland

Deaf and hearing impaired

Extent of hearing impairment varies widely; wide range of adaptations, adjustments and support needs; hearing impairment can be a barrier to learning; social and peer isolation; mental health impact.

National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS)

Scottish Sensory Centre

Developmental delay for example barriers to learning as a result of a health need, associated with e.g. foetal alcohol spectrum disorder or premature birth

Social, emotional and physical functioning different to chronological age; difficulty with peer relationships; readiness to learn impacted.

Down's Syndrome

Health difficulties; learning difficulties; different interests to other children; wide variation in children's difficulties and needs; social, emotional and physical functioning different to chronological age.

Down's Syndrome Scotland


Struggle with reading and writing; difficulty in spelling; struggle with sequencing; feel embarrassed and self-conscious; experiences stress in learning experiences; cover up difficulties through behaviour; social isolation; impact on mental health.

Dyslexia Scotland (DS)

Development Coordination difficulties (dyspraxia)

Delays in early developmental milestones; appears clumsy and poorly co-ordinated; difficulties with ordinary childhood activities; adaptations, adjustments and support vary widely.

Dyspraxia Foundation

English as an Additional Language (EAL)

Struggle to understand and be understood; difficulties in peer relationships; barriers to learning; may have responsibilities in family for translation; left behind educationally.

Scottish Refugee Council

Highly able learners

Intellectual ability may not be matched by emotional maturity and social skills; assumptions made that high intellectual ability does not need any additional support and encouragement; difficulties in peer relationships; emotional and mental health issues.

Scottish Network for Able Pupils (SNAP)

Learning difficulties

Social, emotional and intellectual abilities may not match chronological age; can feel different to and isolated from peers; may mask learning difficulties; wide range of learning difficulties need understood in context of individual child.

Enable Scotland

The Scottish Commission for Learning Disability

Looked after

Impacted by trauma and loss; difficulties in peer relationships; social isolation; developmental delay; social, emotional and behavioural difficulties; physical health; mental health.

Who Cares Scotland


Mental Health

Wide range of mental health issues; ability to focus on learning; social isolation; experience of trauma and loss.

See Me Scotland

Physical and motor impairment

Impact of impairments varies widely and may change over time; social isolation; feels excluded; difficulties in peer relationships; adjustments, adaptations and equipment vary.

Capability Scotland

Selective mutism

Speaks to a small number of people and unwilling to speak to others; does not speak at all; experiencing difficulties due to loss or trauma; social isolation; difficulties in relationships; impact on mental health.

Call Scotland

Speech disorder

Difficulty in making sounds in speech; stuttering; problems pronouncing sounds; struggling to communicate with others; difficult with self confidence and self esteem; impact on relationships with others; impact on emotional wellbeing.

Call Scotland

Language disorder

Difficulty understanding others; struggles to express thoughts, ideas and feelings; feels frustrated; masks language difficulties; behavioural issues; social isolation.

Call Scotland

Gypsy/Traveller families

Frequent moves in education; disrupted learning experience; experience of prejudice/discrimination; socially isolated. Family fears of negative impact of school on Gypsy/Traveller culture


Visually impaired

Exclusion from practical subjects, social times and school trips; experience social isolation; impact on emotional wellbeing; barriers to learning impact on attainment and achievement.

RNIB Scotland

Scottish Sensory Centre

Young carers

Missing school; difficulties completing homework; impact of caring responsibilities on social activities; feeling isolated and different; impact on physical and mental health.

Carers Scotland

Overlap between Equality Act and the Additional Support for Learning Act (taken from Accessibility Strategies guidance - Annex A)

Pupils’ needs which may meet definition of disability under the Equality Act to whom education accessibility strategies apply:

  • Physical or Mental impairment including:
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Dyslexia
  • Diabetes
  • Eating disorder (diagnosed)
  • Gross obesity
  • Disfigurement
  • ADHD
  • Incontinence
  • Epilepsy
  • Learning difficulties, including severe and complex
  • Hearing impairment
  • Some conditions may progress to have a substantial adverse effect; heart conditions, Sickle cell anaemia, Rheumatoid arthritis.

Pupils’ needs which automatically meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act and to whom education accessibility strategies apply:

  • Cancer
  • HIV
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Certified/Registered Visual Impairment
  • Severe long-term disfigurement

There may be overlap between the Acts e.g. a pupil may have a disability and may also have additional support needs.

Pupils who may require additional support under the ASL Act have a barrier to learning as a result of one of the four factors giving rise to additional support needs:

  • Learning environment
  • Family circumstances
  • Disability or health need
  • Social and emotional factors

These may include:

  • Have motor or sensory impairment
  • Are being bullied
  • Are particularly able or talented
  • Have experienced a bereavement
  • Are interrupted learners
  • Have a learning disability
  • Are looked after by the local authority
  • Have a learning difficulty, such as dyslexia
  • Are living with parents who are abusing substances
  • Are living with parents who have mental health problems
  • Have English as an additional language
  • Are not attending school regularly
  • Have emotional or social difficulties
  • Are on the child protection register
  • Are young carers

Or for any other reason

Information and support for parents

National Parent Forum for Scotland

ENQUIRE national helpline and advice

Parents Advocacy and Rights (PAR)


Children's rights

Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland (CYPCS)

Children's Parliament

Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP)

My Rights My Say

Children in Scotland

Who Cares Scotland



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