Support in education

This advice applies in Scotland only. Read information for families in England, Northern Ireland or Wales.

On this page you can read about support in education for children with additional support needs in Scotland.

In this article

An introduction to additional support needs

To enable them to reach their full potential, some children need additional or different help with their learning to what’s normally provided to a child of the same age.

A child who needs this extra help has additional support needs (ASN).

A child or young person may need extra help for lots of reasons. For example, if they miss school because of a long-term condition or illness. Or they may have a physical disability or a communication challenges. A child or young person does not need a diagnosis to be entitled to additional support for learning.

All looked-after children are assumed to have ASN unless assessed as not needing help to learn.

What does the law say?

The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004  as amended (sometimes referred to as the ASL Act) and its code of practice set out your rights as a parent and the rights of your child to get the additional support they need in school. It also provides a framework for schools, local authorities and other agencies to make sure this happens.

Getting it Right for Every Child outlines the Scottish Government’s approach to education and other services  for children and young people, including health. This aims to ensure children and young people receive the right help, at the right time, from the right people. Curriculum For Excellence is the national curriculum from nursery to secondary school.

Rights of children to have a say

All children and young people have the right to have their views heard by the school, nursery or local authority about decisions that directly affect them. This includes having a say in the kind of support and reasonable adjustments that they receive.

Children aged 12 to 15 have additional rights to help them be actively involved in decisions about their support. They can make requests from the local authority themselves, such as asking for an assessment of their additional needs.

Identifying additional support needs

Education authorities have a duty to identify and support all children over three who would benefit from extra help.

You have the right to ask your local education authority to carry out an assessment to see whether your child has ASN. Depending on your child’s needs, additional support might be provided in a range of ways. Local authorities mostly use a process called “staged intervention” to decide this. Speak to your child’s school teacher or guidance teacher to ask for an assessment in the first instance.

If your child attends an independent school or nursery, or you educate them at home, your local authority can choose to provide additional support for learning for your child. But it does not have to.

What support is available for my child?

All children in Scotland have a Personal Learning Plan (PLP) at school. A PLP sets out what and how your child learns, and it will help to assess their progress. Your child should be involved in updating their PLP. For most children, no further planning is needed.

If your child requires a bit more support than a PLP, the school should work with you and your child to create an Individualised Educational Programme (IEP). An IEP is a written document that outlines steps to help a child or young person with ASN achieve specified learning outcomes.

Local authorities might use different names for IEPs, such as Additional Support Plans. And although they are not legal documents, they can help identify and put in place things like reasonable adjustments. This includes measures like extra time to complete tasks or frequent breaks whilst learning.

Plans should be reviewed on a regular basis.

What about support for my child who has complex needs?

If your child has complex needs, they might need a Co-ordinated Support Plan (CSP). The aim of a CSP is to coordinate the support your child receives from different agencies.

Unlike Personal Learning Plans and Individual Educational Programmes, CSPs are legal documents. Local authorities must provide the support written in a pupil’s CSP.

If your child meets all of the criteria below, your local authority should consider putting in place a CSP:

A CSP should describe your child’s educational objectives. It should outline what additional support they need to achieve them and from which professionals.

What if the local authority doesn’t give my child a CSP or fails to deliver the support in an CSP?

If, after assessing your child, the local authority decides your child does not need a CSP, or if you have not had a decision after 16 weeks, you have the right to refer their decision to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal.

You have two months to do this, and the two months begins from either:

What happens if my child has healthcare needs?

If your child has healthcare needs, they may also have a healthcare plan setting out their treatment and medication.

If their healthcare needs affect their ability to attend school or learn, they should have a school healthcare plan drawn up in partnership with health professionals.

Education beyond 16

If your child stays on at school after the age of 16, the local authority has the same legal duties to support their learning as before.

The local authority has a duty to plan for your child leaving school. The school and local authority must gather information from relevant people and agencies to help young people plan for adult life. They must do this at least 12 months before your child leaves school.

For more information on transition planning, visit our transitions microsite, Talking about Tomorrow.

Need more help?

Support from Contact

To speak to someone about support for your child at school, get in touch with our Scotland team. You can call 07458046071 or email [email protected] .

Contact’s Talking about Tomorrow transition microsite has been put together with parents, for parents, to answer your questions and help you make the right decisions for your family. It includes information and advice on planning for transition as your child moves towards leaving school and beyond.

Sign up to news and updates from Contact Scotland to stay up-to-date with our latest news, activities and events for families with disabled children. If you’re in a support group in Scotland, you can join our support group network – email [email protected]

Visit our Contact Scotland Facebook page for our latest news and to talk to families in Scotland like yours.

Support from other organisations

You will find information for parent carers about additional support for learning if your child attends school in Scotland from Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning.

Mindroom is a Scottish charity that supports children and young people living with learning difficulties with education resources and information.

LEAD is a national charity supporting disabled people and carers by providing personalised learning, befriending, advice and information services for post-school learning.

Together Scotland has information on the rights of children and young people laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).