What happens if you live in Scotland and have a child with additional support needs who requires extra support in school? 

How do you make sure as a parent that your child receives the support they need to reach their full potential? 

For the vast majority of Scottish families the simple answer to this is: they trust the school.  

Scotland uses the term 'additional support needs' and this term encompasses anything from dyslexia, behavioural difficulties, learning difficulties or even short-term difficulties at home. With such a broad meaning it means that statistically around one in every four pupils in Scottish schools are currently termed as having some sort of additional support needs. With so many children requiring support, and current policies of inclusion, schools are left with a very difficult task of deciding whether or not a pupil actually needs any formal educational plan or if informal support within the school is considered enough. 

Some mainstream schools, like my daughter's, are truly amazing at getting it right for every child and although my daughter does have additional support needs I am in no doubt at all that her school not only understands her needs and recognises them, but they also meet them daily whether she has a formal plan in place or not. My daughter is lucky. Not every school has the skill, the resources or the staffing to be able to do this and for children with very complex needs, like my son, it is very much in his interest to have a formal plan in place.  

So what sort of educational plans are there in Scotland?  

The two most common plans used are known as an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) or an ASP (Additional Support Plan) These are internal plans written up solely by the schools themselves in agreement with the parents and should, where appropriate, include any support required from allied agencies (such as speech and language, CAMHS etc.). These plans should be regularly reviewed and agreed by parents, but there is very little parents can do if the school does not meet the targets agreed. Most parents have no idea what should be in their child's IEP or ASP and schools can include (or exclude) whatever they wish. 

There is one rather very unique educational plan in Scotland, however, which very few parents have even heard about, let alone been told they may qualify: a legally binding and comprehensive support plan bringing all agencies working with a child together alongside education to ensure consistency and joint working. It is called a co-ordinated support plan

These plans are rarely talked about in schools and in my experience parents only find out about their existence from other parents. In fact in the whole of Scotland only 0.35% of children actually currently have a co-ordinated support plan (CSP). 

To get a co-ordinated support plan for your child you need to: 

  1. Apply to the local authority yourself in writing, stating why you feel your child might qualify. Schools cannot do this for you even though the local authority has a statutory duty to identify those children who could benefit from a CSP.
  2. Attend a meeting to find out if your child may qualify. This meeting will be attended by all the agencies currently working with your child and is very formal. It can be hugely intimidating and off-putting for many families. The meeting is usually chaired by someone known as a pupil support manager and it must be fully minuted and have a set structure. Guidance notes will be issued to everyone and after each agency has had a say the same set of questions will be posed to each person round the table and their answers recorded. The meeting will end with a formal yes to proceed further or more commonly a decision that a CSP will not be granted. If parents disagree they then must appeal.
  3. Meet all the criteria and have back up from a lot of agencies. Firstly the local authority must be responsible for your child's education, your child's additional support needs must be expected to last a year or more, and finally those needs must require 'significant additional support' from at least one agency PLUS education. 

It is the 'significant additional support' that means so few children qualify. 

In other words, in order to get a CSP your child must need a huge amount of support from health (speech and language or a nurse but this MUST mean they are closely involved in your child's education) or social work (once again they must have intensive ongoing involvement that means they need to work with education). 

The whole process is daunting, unfriendly and very stressful for families. 

I have been through this twice over now. It was exhausting and I have to say for my children it has been an experience that has made little difference to their education or services they receive. 

I am therefore not that surprised that Scotland has so few children with a co-ordinated support plan. 

My personal advice is to find a school you trust and work with them. A good working relationship with your child's school, in my experience, is worth much more than any educational plan.

However I still find it very sad that Scotland has just one legal education plan for its most precious pupils and so few even qualify to have one. 

Read more of Miriam's blogs here

Find out more about Educational Support Plans in Scotland