'Disconnect' between aspirations and experience of policy for Scottish children with additional support needs

Scotland has ‘ground-breaking’ legislation in place to help children who need additional support for learning – yet there is a “significant disconnect” between the policy’s aspirations and young people’s experience, an expert has warned.

Speaking at a conference held by entitled Scotland Policy Conferences, Dr Dinah Aitken, head of outreach at the Salveson Mindreach Centre, said more time needed to be created in the working days of teaching staff for them to be able to focus on improving accessibility for children with additional support needs (ASN).

The conference, ‘Next steps for the school curriculum in Scotland following the OECD Independent Review’, heard around a third of children in Scotland’s state schools need additional support for learning.

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Dr Aitken said that pupils with ASN are excluded from school at five times the rate of pupils with no additional needs.

Around a third of children in Scottish state schools have additional support needs.

She said: “Scotland has ground-breaking, rights-widening legislation for children who face additional barriers to learning and to fulfilling their potential, but despite this there's a significant disconnect between experience and the stated aspirations of the legislation and policy.

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"In other words, there's a gap between intention and reality and the truth is that having a neuro-divergent child or children in your family who have additional support needs is full time, and it's often exhausting, and without proper support the children have poorer outcomes or they're vulnerable to exclusion.

"In short, they do not develop their personality, talents, and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.”

She added: “The pandemic made things worse in many ways, but perhaps now it's grabbed all of our attention, we can see it as an opportunity to change.

"Let’s use the review of the Curriculum for Excellence to really make a change and get it right for the next generation.

"We've had a long time to get this right, but we are not getting it right and we're harming the chances of children and young people.”

A report into Scotland’s education system by the OECD earlier this year found Scotland’s teachers spend far longer in front of children in the classroom than in many other countries.

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