Are we wobbling on ASL?
Things move so fast in the additional support for learning world that we could risk missing the point. -- By Sally Cavers, Manager of Enquire
This summer has seen several Scottish Government consultations in relation to the Additional Support for Learning (ASL) framework. There’s an opportunity to respond to proposed amendments to the Code of Practice, revised regulations related to dispute resolution, and changes to do with the ASN Tribunal. At the end of August views were sought on a 10-year strategy for the learning provision for children and young people with complex additional support needs. Meanwhile, the Education Governance report (out for consultation) notes some significant factors about ASL.
Established in 1999, the Enquire service contributed to landmark Scottish ASL legislation. We were proud of this Act which recognised the breadth of reasons why children and young people may need additional support with their learning and established a duty to have these needs met.
We have talked to thousands of parents and carers, helping with issues in relation to supporting their children’s needs being met. We have spoken to hundreds of children and young people about their experiences, and what makes a difference. We have met, listened to and been trained by a host of phenomenal practitioners whose passion and dedication is inspiring.
A busy legislative landscape provides more rights for children but does not build in sufficient time to let everything bed in
We know that in many areas progress in identifying and providing for those with additional support needs has been very good. Evidence in relation to educational outcomes for many children is positive. However, a number of families who contact Enquire, use dispute resolution mechanisms, and participate in research reveal that changes are still needed.
What we hear makes a significant difference are human exchanges and experience that recognise relationships
In the recent ASN report from the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee, “resources” are frequently mentioned, with a particular emphasis on how limited they are becoming and the impact this has. We often hear from parents struggling with some of the messaging from their child’s school or the local authority which suggests their child’s needs cannot be met in a way that will allow them to reach “their full potential”.
We hear from families who are frustrated with the systems they are encountering and practitioners who cannot do their best within that system.
We hear of parents who are worried about the impact of inclusion on their child’s learning and from children who feel their support changes without review.
This feels a bit like an ASL wobble. We have come so far in developing our schools and support systems, but some hurdles keep tripping us up. Curriculum pressures at secondary level continue to make it more difficult than in primaries to meet the range of needs of children in our communities. A busy legislative landscape provides more rights for children but does not build in sufficient time to let everything bed in. And we continue to develop parental involvement without providing parents and practitioners with the tools to establish how they can most effectively work together.
Overwhelmingly, what we hear makes a significant difference – to children and young people, parents and carers or practitioners – are human exchanges and experiences that recognise the relational foundation of us all. Examples are numerous and often so obvious they are overlooked. Make time to talk when you suspect someone is worried or concerned. As soon as phone calls are not returned, appointments moved, and people rushed it starts an escalation of an issue that may have been resolved quickly on first enquiry.
We also hear a lot about attitudes. School leaders and staff who have a ‘can-do’ approach and do all in their power to support their school to meet the needs of all its pupils. Parents who train staff and support other parents in their child’s school to raise awareness of a specific need. The children and young people who support the genuine inclusion of their peers. If we could stop and take a breath we might see the path has been laid out. By and large, we are unanimous about our aspiration for children. Maybe if we took the foot off the pedal we’d have the space we need to get us there.
- If you have an issue relating to provision of ASL support, Enquire’s trained advisors may be able to assist. Call the confidential helpline on 0345 123 2303.
- More information is also available at enquire.org.uk
This article was originally published in the Children in Scotland Magazine October-November 2017.