Section 5A — Additional support

Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:33 pm on 20th May 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

The bill has been deemed necessary partly to restate some of the key messages of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 in the wake of various court judgments, one of which was a decision by Lord Wheatley. The Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee was right to be concerned about that judgment, as it struck at one of the central features of the 2004 act: the definition of additional support needs. Lord Wheatley's judgment restricted additional support to educational support offered in a teaching environment. However, as we know, a range of support is necessary to assist some children in accessing education. The code of practice lists a number of interventions—everything from social work support to psychiatric support.

I was pleased to support the Government's amendment 7 at stage 2, which reiterated the intended definition of additional support.

Amendments 15 and 16 are based on the suggestion that was made in the joint submission from the Govan Law Centre, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People, Capability Scotland and many others that the bill's provisions should cover not only section 1(3)(a) of the 2004 act, as amendment 7 at stage 2 did, but section 1(3)(b), which relates to early years provision, to ensure that they apply to children who are not based in school or who have a prescribed pre-school place. Those children are included in the original definition of additional support needs for a purpose.

Having spoken again to the various groups who supported the amendments previously, I know that they remain concerned that we could be leaving young children in their crucial early years at a disadvantage. For example, we might jeopardise early communication interventions by speech and language therapists and diminish the systems of preparation for pre-school and school education for children with special and additional needs.

The Govan Law Centre continues to argue strongly that an amendment to section 1(3)(b) of the 2004 act for pre-school children aged zero to three is really needed. Changing the definition of additional support for that group categorically would not require an authority to take responsibility for a child from age zero to three. However, it would ensure that, if they have that responsibility through the application of section 5 of the 2004 act, as amended by section 5D of the bill, which was inserted at stage 2, the additional support would not be confined to support in a classroom. That is obviously particularly important for under-threes.

Section 5 of the 2004 act provides that, for disabled children who are assessed as having additional support needs, the authority has a duty to provide such additional support as is appropriate. The authority then has to look at section 1 of the 2004 act to see what additional support means in the context of a child aged zero to three. At present, what they see in section 1 is reference only to "educational provision." It makes less than no sense that additional support for school pupils is now not restricted to educational provision, but additional support for pre-schoolers is.

The Government's approach at present removes the difficulties that were introduced by Lord Wheatley's decision for pupils aged three to 18 but compounds them for children aged zero to three. It might even have the unintended effect of requiring education authorities to enrol disabled children at that young age in academic establishments, rather than allowing authorities to provide support in other, more appropriate contexts, such as at home or in health centres.

Amendment 15 is a technical amendment that will allow amendment 16 to be inserted properly. I urge colleagues to support amendments 15 and 16.

I move amendment 15.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

Before I call the Minister for Children and Early Years to respond, I remind members that if they wish to participate in the debate on any of the groups, they should press their request-to-speak buttons when the group is called.

I call Ken Macintosh.

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

Thank you for the reminder, Presiding Officer.

I add Labour's support to amendments 15 and 16. It is important to remember that, although the 2004 act gave local authorities the power to address the needs of children from zero to three, it did not impose on them a duty to do that. Since 2004, we have found that, in practice, the needs of a number of children in that group have not been addressed or assessed.

I draw to members' attention the needs of deaf children in particular, who are often diagnosed between the ages of zero and three.

Having accepted amendment 7, in the name of the minister, at stage 2, which addressed Lord Wheatley's judgment, it is important that we transfer that to children aged zero to three, which is what amendments 15 and 16 do.

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Scottish National Party

It might be useful if I explain that the 2004 act currently requires an education authority to provide additional support to certain disabled children in their area who are under three years old. That duty applies where such children have been brought to the attention of the education authority as having, or appearing to have, additional support needs arising from a disability and the education authority establishes that they have such needs.

However, I do not believe that it is appropriate to place education authorities under the same statutory duty to make provision for disabled children under three as for children over three. It simply does not make sense for the same definition of additional support to apply to under-threes as that which will generally apply for those children for whom the authority has a responsibility from pre-school onwards.

That is because education authorities have completely different roles in relation to the different age groups of children. The role that education authorities can play to support disabled children who are under three is described—correctly—as that of educational support and is part of the early years framework, which recognises the right of all young children to high-quality relationships, environments and services that offer an holistic approach to meeting their needs. It is correct that a broader definition applies to children for whose school education the authorities have responsibility.

Approximately 200 severely disabled children are in the age range of zero to three and a high number who would be affected are less severely disabled. Determining the costs exactly has not been possible, but one thing is certain: the proposed new duty will result in significant additional costs to education authorities. I reiterate that the effect of amendments 15 and 16 is that education authorities will take over a responsibility that is properly located with other agencies at the moment, so education authorities will incur extra costs but the children concerned will have no extra benefits.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

Do you wish to press or withdraw amendment 15?

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The question is, that amendment 15 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

There will be a division. I suspend proceedings for five minutes.

Meeting suspended.

On resuming—

Division number 1

For: Aitken, Bill, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Claire, Baker, Richard, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brocklebank, Ted, Brown, Gavin, Brown, Robert, Brownlee, Derek, Butler, Bill, Carlaw, Jackson, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Margaret, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fraser, Murdo, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Goldie, Annabel, Gordon, Charlie, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Hume, Jim, Jamieson, Cathy, Johnstone, Alex, Kelly, James, Kerr, Andy, Lamont, Johann, Lamont, John, Livingstone, Marilyn, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Ken, Martin, Paul, McArthur, Liam, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Tom, McGrigor, Jamie, McInnes, Alison, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, Milne, Nanette, Mulligan, Mary, Murray, Elaine, O'Donnell, Hugh, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Rumbles, Mike, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Elizabeth, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stewart, David, Stone, Jamie, Tolson, Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Whitton, David
Against: Adam, Brian, Allan, Alasdair, Brown, Keith, Campbell, Aileen, Coffey, Willie, Constance, Angela, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Don, Nigel, Doris, Bob, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, FitzPatrick, Joe, Gibson, Kenneth, Gibson, Rob, Grahame, Christine, Harvie, Christopher, Hepburn, Jamie, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Adam, Kidd, Bill, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Kenny, MacDonald, Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Stewart, McKee, Ian, McKelvie, Christina, McLaughlin, Anne, McMillan, Stuart, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Gil, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Salmond, Alex, Somerville, Shirley-Anne, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, John, Thompson, Dave, Watt, Maureen, Welsh, Andrew, White, Sandra, Wilson, Bill, Wilson, John

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The result of the division is: For 69, Against 48, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 15 agreed to.

Amendment 16 moved—[Margaret Smith].

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The question is, that amendment 16 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 2

For: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Claire, Baker, Richard, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brocklebank, Ted, Brown, Gavin, Brown, Robert, Brownlee, Derek, Butler, Bill, Carlaw, Jackson, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Margaret, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fraser, Murdo, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Goldie, Annabel, Gordon, Charlie, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Harper, Robin, Henry, Hugh, Hume, Jim, Jamieson, Cathy, Johnstone, Alex, Kelly, James, Kerr, Andy, Lamont, Johann, Lamont, John, Livingstone, Marilyn, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Ken, Martin, Paul, McArthur, Liam, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Tom, McGrigor, Jamie, McInnes, Alison, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, Milne, Nanette, Mulligan, Mary, Murray, Elaine, O'Donnell, Hugh, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Rumbles, Mike, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Elizabeth, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stewart, David, Stone, Jamie, Tolson, Jim, Whitton, David
Against: Adam, Brian, Allan, Alasdair, Brown, Keith, Campbell, Aileen, Coffey, Willie, Constance, Angela, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Don, Nigel, Doris, Bob, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, FitzPatrick, Joe, Gibson, Kenneth, Gibson, Rob, Grahame, Christine, Harvie, Christopher, Hepburn, Jamie, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Adam, Kidd, Bill, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Kenny, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Stewart, McKee, Ian, McKelvie, Christina, McLaughlin, Anne, McMillan, Stuart, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Gil, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Salmond, Alex, Somerville, Shirley-Anne, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, John, Thompson, Dave, Watt, Maureen, Welsh, Andrew, White, Sandra, Wilson, Bill, Wilson, John
Abstentions: MacDonald, Margo

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The result of the division is: For 70, Against 47, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 16 agreed to.