Additional support for learning: statutory guidance 2017

Statutory guidance to the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 as amended.

Chapter 2: Additional Support Needs

1. This chapter of the code considers the meaning of the terms “additional support needs” and “additional support” and considers the factors giving rise to the need for additional support.


Legal definition of additional support needs

Additional support needs

1.-(1) A child or young person has additional support needs for the purposes of this Act where, for whatever reason, the child or young person is, or is likely to be, unable without the provision of additional support to benefit from school education provided or to be provided for the child or young person.

(1A) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), a child or young person has additional support needs if the child or young person is looked after by a local authority (within the meaning of section 17(6) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (c.36)).

(1B) But where, in the course of identifying (in accordance with the arrangements made by them under section 6(1)(b)) the particular additional support needs of a child or young person who is looked after by a local authority (within the meaning of section 17(6) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (c.36)), an education authority form the view that the child or young person is, or is likely to be, able without the provision of additional support to benefit from school education provided to or to be provided for the child or young person, subsection (1A) ceases to apply.

Benefit from school education


1980 Act

2. The Act’s reference to school education links both the 1980 Act and the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000 ( “the 2000 Act”). The 1980 Act provides that school education “means progressive education appropriate to the requirements of pupils, regard being had to the age, ability and aptitude of such pupils, and includes early learning and childcare and the teaching of Gaelic in Gaelic-speaking areas”. It should be noted that this definition does not require pupils to be attending school, in order to be receiving school education. For example, pupils could be receiving school education in hospital or at home when they are unable to attend school because of ill-health. The 1980 Act also places a general duty on education authorities to secure for their area adequate and efficient provision of school education.


2000 Act

3. The 2000 Act requires the education authority to secure that school education is directed to the development of the personality, talents and mental and physical abilities of the child or young person, to their fullest potential. School education includes education provided by education authorities in exercising their duty to provide school education for eligible pre-school children, such as may be provided, for example, in nursery classes.

4. The benefit from school education which children and young people gain will vary according to their individual needs and circumstances. However, all children and young people benefit from school education when they can access a curriculum which supports their learning and personal development; where teaching and support from others meets their wellbeing needs; where they can learn with, and from, their peers and when their learning is supported by the parents in the home and their wider community. A difficulty or particular need in one, or more, of these areas may lead to a requirement for additional support to be put in place, to enable a child or young person to benefit from school education. Through Curriculum for Excellence, all children and young people are entitled to a curriculum that includes a range of features at the different stages [19] .

Looked after children and young people

s1(1A) and (1B)


5. The Act automatically deems that all looked after children and young people (see introduction, paragraph 17) have additional support needs unless the education authority determine that they do not require additional support in order to benefit from school education. In practical terms, this means that education authorities must make arrangements to identify the additional support needs, if any, of every looked after child or young person who is, or is about to be, provided with school education. It also applies to children over the age of 2 who are looked after, in kinship care or have a guardian. In addition, education authorities must consider whether each looked after child or young person for whose school education they are responsible requires a co-ordinated support plan. Looked after children under school age and who are not eligible pre-school children, as above, are not eligible for a co-ordinated support plan, since they are not receiving school education. However, when they start receiving school education, at say nursery school, and the authority have determined that they have additional support needs, then the authority must consider whether these children require a co-ordinated support plan.

6. The reason for deeming that looked after children have additional support needs, unless it can be shown that they do not require additional support to benefit from school education, is that there is considerable evidence that looked after children and young people can experience significant difficulties in more than one aspect of wellbeing which may impede their success in school education [20] . Children and young people who are looked after (both at home and away from home) often require individually tailored support to get the best from their school education. Assessing need and providing appropriate support is an important function of the corporate parenting [21] duties and responsibilities of local authorities and their service provider partners.

7. The 2014 Act [22] put corporate parenting on a statutory footing and introduced a new framework of duties and responsibilities for relevant public bodies that are corporate parents. These duties require all corporate parents to collaborate with each other, to promote the wellbeing of looked after children and care leavers in their care and enable them to achieve the best outcomes. In recent years, there has been improvement in attendance, attainment, and positive destinations for looked after young people, but the gap is not closing fast enough between looked after and other young people. (see Getting It Right For Looked After Children And Young People Strategy

Additional support

1(3) (as amended). In this Act, “additional support means–

a. in relation to an eligible pre-school child, a child of school age or a young person receiving school education, provision (whether or not educational provision) which is additional to, or otherwise different from, the educational provision made generally for children or, as the case may be, young persons of the same age in schools (other than special schools) under the management of the education authority responsible for the school education of the child or young person, or in the case where there is no such authority, the education authority for the area to which the child or young person belongs,

b. in relation to a child under school age other than an eligible pre-school child, such provision (whether or not educational provision) as is appropriate in the circumstances.

What is meant by additional support?

8. All children and young people need support to help them learn. The main sources of support in pre-school provision and schools are the staff who, through their normal practice, are able to meet a diverse range of needs. All children and young people are entitled to support to enable them to review their learning and plan for next steps, gain access to learning activities which will meet their needs, plan for opportunities for personal achievement and prepare for changes and choices and be supported through changes and choices. With good quality learning and teaching and an appropriate curriculum, most children and young people are able to benefit appropriately from school education without the need for additional support.



9. Some children and young people, and this includes pre-school children receiving school education, require support which is additional to, or otherwise different from, the provision that is generally provided to their peers in order to help them benefit from school education. Section 1(3) of the 2004 Act was amended by the 2009 Act to ensure that additional support is not limited to educational support, but can include multi-agency support from health, social services and voluntary agencies, for example. In addition, as described in chapter 3, education authorities have a duty to make provision for the additional support needs of certain looked after children and disabled children under the age of 3 years in certain circumstances and this support, as above, is not limited to educational provision.

10. The Act, as amended, requires that a child’s or young person’s additional support needs are assessed against the provision made for children or young people of the same age in schools (other than special schools [23] ) managed by the education authority that are responsible for his/her school education. However, when, as a result of a placing request, a child or young person is educated in a host education authority (that is, an education authority other than the one to which he/she belongs or in which he/she normally resides) then the additional support needs are assessed against the provision in that host education authority.

11. Where no education authority is responsible for the child’s or young person’s education (e.g. the child or young person is home or privately educated), his/her additional support needs are assessed against the provision made for children or young people of the same age in schools, other than special schools, managed by the education authority in which he/she lives.

12. The definition of additional support provided in the Act is a wide, inclusive one and it is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of all possible forms of additional support. Additional support falls into three overlapping, broad headings: approaches to learning and teaching, support from personnel, and provision of resources. Examples are provided below of forms of additional support which are common in our schools, and many more can be given [24] . What is central to all these forms of support is that they have been identified as additional provision required to help individual children and young people benefit from school education, taking account of their particular needs and circumstances. The examples below refer to particular situations but should be understood more widely. They can be used to suggest how the law may apply in analogous situations. However, the examples are illustrative, not comprehensive, and they do not constitute an authoritative or exhaustive interpretation of the legislation.

How additional support may be provided

13. Additional support for children and young people may be provided in a range of locations including in school, at home, in hospital, or in a specialist health, social services or voluntary agency facility. Examples of additional support may include:

  • a particular approach to learning and teaching: for example, as used with children and young people with autism spectrum disorders, dyslexia or sensory impairments
  • youth work provided through community learning and development
  • attendance shared between school and further education college
  • the deployment of personnel from within the school or education authority: for example, support from a learning support teacher in the school or from a peripatetic teacher of the deaf
  • the deployment of personnel from outwith education: for example, support provided by allied health professionals working in health or social workers from the local authority or staff from the voluntary sector where this support enables the child or young person to benefit from education
  • provision of particular resources, including information and communications technology ( ICT) and particular learning and teaching materials.
  • Examples of additional support provided from within education services to children and young people are the following:
  • a support for learning assistant working with a learning disabled child in a nursery
  • class teacher helping a child by following a behaviour management programme drawn up in consultation with a behaviour support teacher
  • tutorial support from a support for learning teacher to help with a reading difficulty
  • use of communication symbols by a child with an autism spectrum disorder
  • designated support staff working with Gypsy/Traveller children on their site to help them improve their literacy and numeracy skills
  • in-class support provided by an English as Additional Language ( EAL) teacher for a child whose first language is not English
  • use of an app on a tablet computer to support writing
  • a highly able child at the later stages of primary school receiving support to access the secondary mathematics curriculum

Mary is in P6. She comes from a highly mobile Gypsy/Traveller family. Distance learning materials had previously been provided but with limited effect and Mary has fallen behind her peer group in a number of areas. She is now settled in a school, attending regularly and is receiving support from a teacher experienced in working with Gypsy/Traveller children. The teacher advises the support for learning and classroom teachers in the school. Mary receives age appropriate resources and is included with children of her own age.

Anna comes from a bilingual background and is fluent in her first language. She attends a mainstream primary school where she also receives additional language support from a visiting EAL teacher once a week. The teacher works directly with Anna in class and offers advice and support to her class teacher and other teachers and staff who support Anna.

George is in P6 and has completed the mathematics curriculum for primary school. His head teacher contacted the mathematics department in his associated secondary who agreed to provide suitable support from their department. The secondary mathematics teacher liaised with the class and learning support teacher to provide an appropriately challenging mathematics programme for George.



14. Some children and young people will require additional support from agencies from outwith education services if they are to make progress. This support may be provided outwith an educational setting. Some examples are:

  • social work support to help a young person with social and emotional needs address his substance misuse
  • a communication programme drawn up by a speech and language therapist and teacher for implementation in the classroom
  • Promoting positive relationships programme delivered to a group of young people by staff from a voluntary agency
  • counselling provided by a voluntary agency for a child who has been bereaved and needs support to help her overcome difficulties in school
  • psychiatric support for a child with mental health difficulties
  • specialist equipment support from physiotherapy
  • a sensory integration programme provided by an occupational therapist
  • group or individual career support to engage choices for education, training or employment, in anticipating school leaving.

Darren is a young carer for his mother who has mental health problems. He attends his local secondary school but has had significant absences because of caring for her. Darren’s guidance teacher and his mother’s social worker identified the extra burdens on Darren and their effect on his attendance. Darren’s guidance teacher and his mother’s social worker discussed the reasons for his absences with him. The social worker arranged for a carer to support Darren’s mother during the day, enabling him to attend school.

Kyle, aged 11, was placed with foster carers following several periods of serious offending with a group of older boys. As part of his Child’s Plan [25] , social work staff began working with Kyle and his mother, who is a lone carer, to address his offending behaviour. Kyle also exhibited behaviour difficulties at school requiring close inter-agency collaboration to ensure an effective programme of support. Kyle benefited from three days in a behavioural support unit and two days in a mainstream school, per week. In mainstream classes, he received additional support through a child support worker employed on a sessional basis within school. This support was co-ordinated through his Child’s Plan which incorporated his individualised educational programme.

Susan, aged 14, is a ‘school refuser’ and is attending a voluntary agency day provision full-time, where she receives education and counselling. Local authority and voluntary agency staff, together with Susan and her parents, have been working together using the Getting it right for every child National Practice Model, in particularly the My World Triangle (see chapter 3) as a framework to assess her needs with a view to considering the development of a Child’s Plan. In addition, the authority are considering whether the requirements for preparing a co-ordinated support plan (see chapter 5) have been met and what the future options for Susan are in terms of school and post-school provision (see chapter 6).

15. As well as certain looked after children under the age of 3 years, the Act requires an education authority to provide additional support to certain disabled pre-school children in their area, normally those who are under 3 years of age. This duty applies where such children have been brought to the attention of the education authority as having, or appearing to have, additional support needs arising from a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010, and it is established by the education authority that they do have such needs. In their case, additional support will be provision which is appropriate to their circumstances. For example, support may be provided by educational support services in the form of teachers who visit children at home every fortnight and advise the parents about suitable activities they can carry out to promote their child’s development and learning. Additional support may be provided from outwith education, such as from an occupational therapist from social work services or a speech and language therapist from health services. By virtue of the 2009 Act amendments the wider definition of additional support also applies to these children.

Factors giving rise to additional support needs

16. There is a wide range of factors which may lead to some children and young people having a need for additional support. These fall broadly into the four overlapping themes described below: learning environment, family circumstances, disability or health need, and social and emotional factors.

17. Schools are aware of their responsibilities to provide an effective and efficient education for all children and young people on their roll, including those with additional support needs. All children and young people are entitled to support to enable them to make progress in their learning. They can expect their learning environment to support them to develop their self-awareness, self-worth and to experience personal achievement. However, the educational experiences of some children may not take sufficient account of their individual wellbeing needs and circumstances, to ensure that they derive appropriate benefit from school education.

18. A need for additional support may arise where the learning environment [26] is a factor. For example, pupils may experience barriers to their learning, achievement and full participation in the life of the school. These barriers may be created as the result of factors such as the ethos and relationships in the school, inflexible curricular arrangements and approaches to learning and teaching which are inappropriate because they fail to take account of additional support needs. For example, highly able pupils may not be challenged sufficiently or those with specific reading or writing problems may not be receiving the appropriate support to help them make progress overcoming their difficulties.

19. In support of this, schools can monitor and review the learning environment by evaluating the quality of ethos and relationships in the school, the curricular arrangements and the approaches to learning and teaching. Such review can secure a reduction in barriers to learning, improvement in achievement and the full participation of children and young people with additional support needs in the life of the school.

20. Family circumstances may give rise to additional support needs; for example, where a child’s or young person’s home life is disrupted by poverty, homelessness, domestic abuse, parental alcohol or drug misuse or parental mental or physical health problems. Examples of where additional support needs may arise as a result of family circumstances include; where the pupil herself is a young mother, or is helping to care for disabled parents or siblings, or where a child is from a family of Armed Services with a parent being deployed into conflict zones, or where the family is affected by imprisonment. The child or young person may be being looked after by the local authority or have recently left care or be in need of measures to secure their care and protection. In these circumstances support from social work services may be needed to ensure that the child or young person is able to benefit from education.

21. Issues relating to a disability or health need may mean that additional support is required, for example, where a child or young person is a disabled child. Additional support is required to meet the needs of a child or young person who has a motor or sensory impairment, specific language difficulty, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, autism spectrum disorder or has learning difficulties. Children with a low birth weight may have additional support needs. Mental health and wellbeing issues such as anxiety, eating disorders and depression can disrupt learning and may lead to additional support being required, for example from child and adolescent mental health services ( CAMHS), or local counselling services to ensure benefit from school education.

22. Social and emotional factors may also give rise to a need for additional support. A child being bullied or bullying may need additional support. Bullying behaviour may be a result of prejudice that relates to perceived or actual differences. This can lead to behaviour and language which could manifest into racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia or transphobia or prejudice and discrimination towards disability or faith. A child who has had Adverse Childhood Experiences may also benefit from additional support to overcome barriers to their learning. A child with behavioural difficulties or at risk of exclusion [27] from school may require additional support to develop positive relationships and behaviours to prevent further escalation of risk of exclusion and other associated risks, including offending behaviour. Additional support could be short-term or could be long-term over a number of years. The factors which may give rise to additional support needs are wide and varied because they relate to the wellbeing and circumstances of individual children and the learning environment they encounter. An individual may have additional support needs arising from more than one of the factors outlined above.

23. The same factor may have different impacts on individual learning. For example, one child or young person may find that difficulties at home have an adverse impact upon his or her learning. Another child in apparently similar circumstances may experience a minimal impact on his or her learning. E.g. A young person in a wheelchair attends a primary school in an older building where she receives support assistant time, due to presence of stairs. She transfers to a newly-built secondary school. The school environment has been designed to be accessible for all. After a period of familiarisation, the young person and/ or their parent feel they no longer require any additional support.

24. A need for additional support does not imply that a child or young person lacks abilities, skills or strengths. For example, bilingual children or young people, whose first language is not English, may already be fluent in one or more other languages with a wide range of achievements, skills and attributes. Any lack of English should be addressed within a learning and teaching programme which takes full account of the individual’s abilities and learning needs. Similarly, some deaf children may have support needs which are related primarily to language and communication issues and they may have significant skills and abilities in other areas. Some children with a hearing impairment may be of the view that their hearing aid removes any barriers to learning and any need for additional support in school.

25. The requirement for additional support varies across a spectrum of needs and circumstances. Generally, it is preferable to ensure that support is provided as early as possible, in ways that are well integrated within everyday practice and do not single out the child requiring additional support. Some children, young people and families will find terms such as dyslexia or autism spectrum disorder useful in helping them explain and understand any difficulties being experienced. Others may experience such terms as limiting and stigmatising. Generally, children and young people are keen to be seen as being no different to their peers. Throughout, the requirement should be to view children and young people as individuals and to tailor support, positively and sensitively, to their individual needs and circumstances, considering all aspects of wellbeing.

26. Chapter 3 describes in more detail the functions and duties on education authorities to identify, assess and make provision for additional support needs.


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