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:


The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended) places duties on local authorities to identify, meet and review the needs of children and young people. It gives children[5] and young people[6], parents and carers a number of rights, including rights to ask for additional support needs to be identified and planned for; to receive advice and information about their or their child's additional support needs; be part of discussions about the support that they or their child will receive; and access dispute resolution procedures to resolve concerns.

Since the Act was implemented, there has been concern from schools and families about the availability and effectiveness of support for all children and young people. There are currently 30.9% of children and young people in schools in Scotland with additional support needs.

These needs are diverse; vary considerably in longevity, stability and complexity. Consequently, different types and levels of support are required from education providers and other public services.

The conditions are not mutually exclusive. This Review heard about increasing numbers of children and young people where issues due to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are compounded by social, emotional, behavioural problems linked to poverty and inequality.

The statistics on young people entering the Secure Care and Youth Justice systems affirm this, highlighting that "51% of young people in secure care accommodation had at least one disability, (defined as "a mental or physical impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities").[7]

The legislation clearly states that an additional support need can arise for any reason and be of short or long term duration. Additional support may be required to overcome needs arising from learning environment; health or disability; family circumstances or social and emotional factors.

The supporting guidance[8] unhelpfully complicates people's understanding of what an additional support need may be by listing a selection of conditions, which may require additional support:

  • have motor or sensory impairments;
  • have low birth weight;
  • are being bullied;
  • are children of parents in the Armed Forces;
  • are particularly able or talented;
  • have experienced a bereavement;
  • are affected by imprisonment of a family member;
  • are interrupted learners;
  • have a learning disability;
  • have barriers to learning as a result of a health need, such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder;
  • are looked after by a local authority or who have been adopted;
  • 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 refugees; or
  • are young carers.

In September 2019, John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, commissioned this Review and appointed Angela Morgan as the Independent Chair. The remit for the Review was agreed between the Scottish Government, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) and representatives of each formed a Steering Group. The remit of the Review made clear that: the principle of presumption of mainstreaming for children and young people was not under review; and the relevant issues would be considered within existing resources.

The remit of the Review was to consider the implementation of the legislation:

  • how additional support for learning (ASL) works in practice, across early learning and childcare centres, primary, secondary and special schools (including enhanced provision, services and units);
  • where children and young people learn within the balance of the provision set out above, recognising that not all local authority areas have all of those provisions;
  • the quality of learning and support, including overall achievement and positive destinations achieved post-school;
  • the different approaches to planning and assessment to meet the needs of children and young people;
  • the roles and responsibilities of support staff, teaching staff, leadership role, education authorities and national agencies; and
  • the areas of practice that could be further enhanced through better use of current resources to support practice, staffing or other aspects of provision.

The Review began in September 2019 and concluded in February 2020 with the submission of this report and recommendations to Scottish Ministers and COSLA.[9]



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