Learning provision for children and young people with complex additional support needs: 10-year strategy 2017-2026

Scottish Government's long-term strategy for providing 'the right help at the right time in the right place'.

The Commissioning Process

The commissioning process for national services will be:

  • Inclusive - involving service users, purchasers and providers.
  • Transparent - decisions and processes will be open to scrutiny and made in ways that are easily understood, whilst respecting the need for commercial confidentiality.
  • Innovative - creating an environment that supports good ideas and values evidence based innovation where it leads to service improvement.
  • Focused on Excellence - aspiring to the highest standards of excellence and professionalism in the provision of educational and related services to children with complex additional support needs.

The package of nationally commissioned services will be:

  • based on assessed need;
  • based on the principle of provision being locally provided wherever possible and inclusive in nature;
  • able to support parents and carers;
  • able to capitalise on the expertise and experience developed by partners, building services and capacity locally and centrally which best meet children and young people's needs;
  • able to provide a mix of long-term services of learning and support and short-term focused support to meet particular needs;
  • located equitably across Scotland;
  • able to ensure regional support to ensure equality of access to centralised services;
  • co-ordinated to prevent duplication, and thereby improve efficiency and effectiveness.

Legislative and policy framework

The Commissioning Process will work within relevant legislation and policy, namely:

National Strategic Commissioning Group

The National Strategic Commissioning group will continue to work collaboratively with local authorities and health boards to establish a common view regarding strategic needs, informed by the Commissioning group's direct engagement with stakeholders and professional analysis, as well as by the local authorities' position as the chief determinants of education provision for their learners. The Strategic Commissioning group will work collaboratively with the providers of the services it commissions to agree forward plans and strategies. In particular it will work positively with providers and the users of their services at times of anticipated change or transition in the service or the strategy under which the service has been commissioned. The Scottish Government directly and through partner agencies will provide proactive support and scrutiny of the programmes as appropriate.

Resource of c. £11m per annum is being maintained by the Scottish Government to ensure that the key areas identified by the SCPB for delivery are supported.

Changes in current grant awards and services will engage with stakeholders and will not prejudice the placements of children or young people who are supported by currently funded services.

The National Strategic Commissioning group, following ministerial approval, will oversee the implementation of a 3 year cyclical commissioning plan that supports this Strategy. It will follow a cycle of planning, commissioning and review and will support the on-going anticipation of future need in addition to ensuring that services are addressing identified current national need.

It is anticipated that the third sector will take a lead in applying for funding and delivering services through the new commissioning process in recognition that they currently act as agents of local authorities to address the most complex additional support needs as defined by child or young person's residential authority. Other organisations or partnerships may also apply for funding.

In applying for funding, service providers will be required to provide information on:

  • Rationale for proposed area of focus (Direct education, care and health services; Research; professional learning and development; and/or broader services which support the education of children and young people with complex additional support needs).
  • Evidence of agreed collaboration with partners and added value to existing local or regional provision.
  • Anticipated outcomes on each of the key priorities of the National Improvement Framework: raising attainment, achieving equity, improving health and well-being, developing skills for learning, life and work.
  • Anticipated impact on professional learning and capacity building across local authorities as well as at a national level.
  • Internal governance and self-evaluation processes that focus on SHANARRI outcomes.

Wellbeing Wheel

10 Year Strategy

Our aim is that by 2026 Scotland will be a world leader in relation to providing the highest quality education to children and young people with complex additional support needs. An outcome review in 2026 should be expected to evidence a well-developed history of proactive collaborative working between national government, local authorities, independent providers (3 rd Sector), national and international training providers (Universities, Education Scotland, SCEL etc). The central objective will be to secure enhanced and sustained attainment and achievement outcomes for children and young people with complex additional support needs.

As indicated the strategy will be framed within the key drivers identified in the NIF but customised to reflect the multi-dimensional themes identified in the Doran Review, particularly in reference to social services and health. Given the scope of the strategy it is proposed that it will be addressed in phases over the 10 year period. The first phase would focus on pathfinder activity related to training, development and research.

Service Leadership

Leaders at all levels and in all relevant services should evidence on-going professional learning commensurate with their areas of practice and responsibility.

Education Services

This objective will be supported by the development of appropriate leadership development programmes within the already established Education Scotland and SCEL Frameworks and reflect collaborative working with Universities and GTCS.

The writing and pilot delivery of these programmes will be commissioned over 2017-2020. Participation in the writing, delivery and involvement in the initial programme will reflect input by senior managers across all sectors, working collaboratively. Initial and on-going funding to support participation in the programmes will be supported by the Scottish Government through the commissioning process.

As with the expectation on local authorities, providers will be expected to have a rigorous self-evaluation process which monitors the impact of school and service leadership on achieving the optimum outcomes for children and young people with complex additional support needs. Evidence should reflect collaboration at a senior level with colleagues in the other key services

Internal self-evaluation will be complemented by independent research.

By 2026 there should be a well-established national leadership programme at post-graduate level, which addresses the requirements of effective leadership in the context of schools and services for children and young people with complex additional support needs.

Practitioner Professionalism

To support the objectives in the National Improvement Framework the strategy proposes:

  • The development of relevant professional learning opportunities at post graduate level for teachers addressing complex additional support needs including, as appropriate, study at Master Level. As with the school leadership programmes they will be developed and trialled on a collaborative basis between school and service staff and providers. Such an approach would meet the expectation within an evolutionary Masters Programme. As with the Leadership programme it would have essential elements of multi-professional collaboration.
  • Profiling on a 5 year basis the range of professional learning being undertaken by teachers in both independent and local authority managed provision to address complex additional support needs. In keeping with Teaching Scotland's Future and GTCS Professional Update this would include a range of CPD activity, including opportunities at establishment or service level as well as post graduate study. This information would be gathered through the Professional Update process but would not compromise the confidentiality of individual practitioners.

Parental Engagement

Given that many of the children and young people who attend specialist schools in the independent sector are looked after and accommodated by the home education authority, the strategy underlines the comprehensive definition of parent to include carer and corporate parent.

By 2026 there should be clear evidence of strong partnership working between providers and parents which underpins the achievement of educational outcomes for children and young people with complex additional support needs.

The strategy proposes initial action research over 2016-2018 into the key themes of transition to determine the current strengths and challenges which characterise current practice and how each key partner can maximize their contribution.

Assessment of Children's Progress

To support the statement in the National Improvement Framework, "Progress in learning for children with significant additional support needs will be evaluated at an individual level, through agreed plans and next steps, which will be personalised" the strategy proposes:

  • Supporting the trialling of a range of assessment models developed specifically to provide frameworks for schools and services to support the assessment process for children and young people with complex additional support needs;
  • The trial to be funded over two school sessions 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 and to include the full range of complex additional support needs in both the independent sector and local authority managed provision; and
  • This action research will complement activity linked to research into transition and positive destinations and will reflect collaborative contributions from all the key agencies.

Service Improvement

In relation to the key theme of direct education care and health, the strategy proposes an initial focus on the quality of the partnerships that are in place to support children and young people with complex additional support needs to allow them to engage as fully as possible in education.

  • Action research be commissioned to identify the factors which empower productive inter-agency collaboration and positive outcomes for children and young people with complex additional support needs; and
  • The research to look at both at internal collaboration between education, care and health staff within a localised setting and also the wider local authority scene (Education and Social Work Services).

Performance Information

This would also underline the expectation that proposed areas for funding will be expected to inform practice and improved intelligence information across the profile of complex additional support needs.

All of the above are set against the current international and national legislative frameworks, and national and local authority policies which seek to protect and promote the rights of every child. Education Scotland and the Care Commission have key responsibilities in these areas.

By 2026 the National Strategic Commissioning Group will by then have become trusted as well informed and authoritative voice leading stakeholders toward a consensus around these aspirations.

Transition Period

At the present time there are seven grant-aided special schools and three education support services that receive recurrent funding from the Scottish Government, from an annual budget that will in 2017 become the resource from which national commissioning will be carried out by the National Strategic Commissioning Group. Scottish Ministers are committed to a carefully managed transition from the existing grant system to the new programme of commissioning that ensures that recommendations do not disadvantage children and young people currently in receipt of services and the organisations currently receiving this grant funding will be supported through the change process.

It is proposed that there be a phased release of funding from the current commitments. This would facilitate a managed transition from the present model without prejudice to children and young people currently attending grant-aided schools or accessing broader services. This reflects a commitment made by the Scottish Government when the National Strategic Commissioning Group was established.

It is proposed that within the 10 year strategy, there will be multiple cycles of commissioning. The cycle will seek to align with the relevant spending review period wherever possible to enable the maximum planning and delivery opportunity for commissioned services. This may mean that in the initial commissioning cycle may be for a shorter period to enable alignment with spending review timeframes. This would also enable the lessons learned to be considered from the initial commissioning cycle.

The National Strategic Commissioning Group will work with its stakeholders to produce a supplement to this plan to set out how it will operate to achieve its vision. This will involve developing a forward funding plan in collaboration with the current school/service grant recipients, which will support the move from the traditional recurrent grant funding model to the strategic commissioning model.

Evaluation and planning for improvement

An evaluation framework will be developed following the agreement of this strategy.


The Doran Strategic Commissioning Project Board ( SCPB) will continue to oversee the implementation of recommendations 7 and 17-21 of the Doran Review, including the work of the National Strategic Commissioning Group.

The National Strategic Commissioning Group will submit the 10 year strategy and proposals for commissioned services to ministers for approval before implementation. Ministers have appointed a chair to lead the NSCG group and the remit of the National Strategic Commissioning Group (Annex A) will reviewed as and when the group and/or ministers agree this is needed. Any changes to the remit will require ministerial approval. The Group can determine its own working arrangements including the frequency of meetings and decision making processes. The Scottish Government provides secretariat support to the group. Where expert support, in relation to policy, procurement or legal issues is required these will be sourced through the secretariat.

Whilst it is expected that the group will strive to achieve consensus in recommendations it is recognised that this may not always be possible. Where recommendations do not represent a unanimous view, Ministers will be made aware that this is the case.

Thank you for reading Scotland's Strategy for the Education Provision for Children and Young People with Complex Additional Support Needs 2016-2026.


Email: Deborah Walker

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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