Children's hearings training resource manual: volume 2

Volume 2 is a children's hearings handbook, focusing on the problems that some children face, the environment in which they live, their needs and their rights.

7. Children and Education

School is an important part of children's lives and today 80% of children stay on past sixteen years. There have been many changes in the Scottish education system in recent years aimed at achieving a wider ability range and recognising the value not only of academic progress but also of vocational achievement. The years of compulsory schooling in Britain are from five to sixteen.

The summer leaving date (31 May) is for those children whose sixteenth birthday falls between 1 March and 30 September. The Christmas leaving date is for those children whose sixteenth birthday falls between 1 October and 28/29 February.

In order to make sense of school reports and to understand what stage a particular child may be at, it is important for panel members to have an understanding of the current structure. Some of the terms in current use regarding class composition and examinations follow.


The Scottish schools' curriculum - "Curriculum for Excellence" covers the ages 3 to 18. The aims of this curriculum are that all children and young people will develop the attributes, knowledge and skills they will need to flourish in life, learning and work.

Children should become:

  • Successful learners.
  • Confident individuals.
  • Responsible citizens.
  • Effective contributors.

Nursery and Pre-school Education

In Scotland children are entitled to a place in a nursery class when they reach their third birthday. This gives parents the option of two years of funded pre-school education before beginning primary one, which is the first year of compulsory education. Nursery children who are three years old are referred to as ante-pre-school whilst children who are four years old are termed pre-school.

Primary School

Children start primary school aged between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 depending on when the child's birthday falls. Scottish school policy places all those born between March of a given year and February of the following year in the same year group. Children born between March and August start school in August at between 5 1/2 and 5 years old, and those born between September and February start school in the previous August at between age 4 years 11 months and 4 1/2 years old.

The Scottish system is the most flexible in the UK, however, as parents of children born between September and December can request a deferral for 1 year (not automatic, requires to be approved), whilst the parents of children born between January and February can opt to hold their child back a year and let them start school the following August. This usually allows those not ready for formal education to have an extra year at nursery school.

Secondary School

Pupils remain at primary school for seven years. Then, aged eleven or twelve, they start secondary school for a compulsory four years with the following two years being optional.

In Scotland pupils currently sit Standard Grade or National Qualifications (Intermediate / Access) exams at the age of fifteen/sixteen, for normally eight subjects including compulsory exams in English, Mathematics, a Science subject (Physics, Biology or Chemistry) and a Social Subject (Geography, History or Modern Studies).

As the Curriculum for Excellence is introduced, it is anticipated these examinations will change, being phased in between session 2013/14 and session 2015/16:

New National Qualifications

Current National Qualifications

Access 1 and Access 2 (revised)


Access 1 and Access 2

Access 3 (revised)


Access 3

National 4


Standard Grade (general level) Intermediate 1

National 5


Standard Grade (Credit level) Intermediate 2

Higher (revised)



Advanced Higher (revised)


Advanced Higher

This programme may be subject to a year's delay to allow more time to prepare for the changeover.

The Scottish Government also requires students to have two hours of physical education a week.

The school leaving age is generally sixteen after which students may choose to remain at school and study for further National Qualifications usually at Higher and/or Advanced Higher level.

Class Composition

Primary school children are generally taught in mixed ability classes although, depending on the local authority, some measure of ability grouping may operate for some subjects. Children in small primary schools in more rural and island areas may be taught in composite classes, where children of different ages are grouped into single classes - how this is arranged will depend on local policies and the individual circumstances of the school.

Secondary school pupils may be grouped in various ways:

  • Mixed ability

Pupils of different levels of ability are taught together in the same class. A variety of materials will be used to enable pupils to work according to their individual abilities.

  • Setting

In secondary schools, in certain subject areas, usually English and Mathematics, pupils are taught in sets according to ability. All pupils within the same set use the same materials and work at the same pace

School Structure

Birthday during school year (unless held back for a year when starting primary school)

Class / Year group





























The syllabus and the qualifications for which pupils will be entered should be flexible to meet the individual needs of the child.

Curriculum Levels

The Curriculum for Excellence defines five levels of learning. The path most children and young people are expected to follow through the levels reflects their stages of maturation and the changing ways in which they engage with learning as they develop.

Some will start learning at these levels earlier and others later, depending upon individual needs and aptitudes. The framework is designed to be flexible in order to permit careful planning for those with additional support needs This includes those who, for example, have a learning difficulty and those who are particularly talented or able.

While children and young people should feel that the transition from one stage to another is smooth, they should still be able to look forward to the excitement of starting nursery, primary school and secondary school.




The pre-school years and P1, or later for some


To the end of P4, but earlier or later for some


To the end of P7, but earlier or later for some

Third and Fourth

S1 to S3, but earlier for some. The fourth level broadly
Equates to Scottish Credit and Qualifications level 4
The fourth level experiences and outcomes are intended to provide possibilities and choice for young people's programmes and will not include all of the fourth level outcomes

Senior phase

S4 to S6, and college or other means of study

Pastoral care

In secondary schools every pupil is allocated a 'pastoral care' (formerly 'guidance') teacher. The organisation of this care will vary from school to school but the tasks common to all such teachers will include:

  • Building relationships / personal support.
  • Curricular guidance.
  • Personal and social education.
  • Careers education and guidance.
  • Pupil behaviour.

Pupil profile

The school completes a profile of each pupil, detailing his/her progress throughout the school years. For pupils who move schools frequently, it is essential that the pupil profile is passed on timeously to avoid the pupil dropping out of sight of the education authorities.


Corporal punishment is not permitted in Scottish schools. Pupils are disciplined in various ways, ranging from punishment exercises and detention to exclusion.


The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 provides, in regulation 4, that education authority shall not exclude a learner from school unless the authority:

  • "are of the opinion that the parent of the pupil refuses or fails to comply, or to allow the pupil to comply, with the rules, regulations, or disciplinary requirements of the school"; or
  • "consider that in all the circumstances to allow the pupil to continue attendance at the school would be likely to be seriously detrimental to order and discipline in the school or the educational well-being of the pupils there."

In practice, the three basic criteria for exclusion are:

  • Physical assault on pupils, physical or verbal bullying (including cyber-bullying).
  • Deliberate damage to buildings or equipment.
  • Extreme behaviour towards staff, including assault and verbal abuse.

Exclusion will range from short-term (one to three days) to permanent. Return to school may depend on the pupil and/or parents agreeing to abide by certain conditions. Children (independently of their parents) and parents may appeal against the child being excluded.

If a child is excluded the local authority must make other arrangements for the child's education " without undue delay" (section 14(3) of the education (Scotland) Act 1980). This not defined, but the Scottish Government Circular 8/03 indicates that this should normally be interpreted as meaning no more than 10 school days.

Where it appears to a hearing that a child has been excluded and has not been placed in an alternative education establishment without undue delay, they may require the National Convenor to refer the matter to the Scottish Ministers (Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011, section 127).

Exclusion is a last resort and schools should set up strategies to provide inclusive education. These include:

  • Well planned support strategies for children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.
  • The development of a whole school ethos with procedures to identify possible difficulties.
  • An ability to adjust the curriculum for individual pupils with specific difficulties.
  • Consideration of the need for on-site bases or units.
  • An evaluation of the existing provision.


Schools have a legal duty to record pupils' attendance. Formal procedures for dealing with unexplained absences involve the school, parents and the local authority education service.

Parents also have a legal duty to provide a suitable education for their child. Normally, this will be by registering them for an appropriate school and supporting their attendance there. Alternatively, they may provide for their child's education at home, provided that such provision has been approved by the local authority. In the absence of an approved alternative home education, parents can be prosecuted and fined for the non-attendance at school of their children.

A child may be referred to a hearing on the section 67 ground that they have failed without reasonable excuse to attend regularly at school (Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011, section 67(o))

Reasonable excuse is defined as:

  • When a child, if under eight years old, lives more than two miles (three miles if over eight) from the nearest school and the local authority is unwilling/unable to provide public transport.
  • When the child is unable to attend through illness.
  • Other circumstances which in the opinion of the education authority "... afford a reasonable excuse".

Where a child / relevant person deny section 67(o) ground and the case is sent for proof, it is up to the child / relevant person to prove that one of the above reasonable excuses pertains.

Truancy is a complex issue and the reasons children give are varied. Some reasons offered range from boredom, to play computer games or to avoid punishment or to avoid bullying. Some truancy can also be condoned by parents e.g. needing someone to babysit, to provide care for a family member, or to go on holiday without permission from the school.

The indicators of potential risk of truancy include:

  • Abused children who may express anxiety by truanting.
  • Disruptive behaviour by a child.
  • Poor progress at school, literacy difficulties etc.
  • Patterns of non-attendance carried over from primary school.
  • Very strict enforcement of school rules.
  • Poor parent/teacher relationship.

Many regular truants (and sometimes their parents) simply fail to see any relevance to school attendance. High achieving pupils are less likely to truant.


Bullying is not new. It may once have been seen as just part of the 'rough and tumble' of school life, but such attitudes have changed, and it is not now acceptable. Both boys and girls may bully, and a victim of bullying may, in turn, become a bully. Bullying should always be taken seriously. All schools will have an anti-bullying policy which should be reinforced with all pupils.

Contact Between Schools and Hearings

There is no formal contact between the Children's Panel and the schools in any one locality. Any formal contact is between the Locality Reporter Manager and the school. Panel members may meet pastoral care and other staff as part of their training. Pupils may learn about the children's hearings system as part Modern Studies, and children's panel members may sometimes be invited into schools to talk to pupils and staff.

Schools can be asked to provide input into integrated assessments, and may take the lead role in drawing up such assessments where the main issues relate to school non-attendance. Teachers are also invited to attend hearings, if appropriate, to expand upon their reports. Although attendance is now more common and many teachers wish to attend, the need to provide cover for the teacher's absence from school may make it difficult for a teacher to do so.


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