Autism Support (Attainment Gap)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 28th September 2016.

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Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

9. To ask the Scottish Government what contribution improving support at school for young children with autism will make towards meeting its ambition to close the educational attainment gap. (S5O-00189)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Our ambition is to deliver equity and excellence for all children and young people, supporting them to reach their full potential, including those affected by autism. The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2009 provides the legal framework for the identification of, provision for, and review of personalised support for children and young people who face barriers to learning, including those arising from autism.

In order to help schools meet the needs of those pupils, the Scottish Government has supported the development of “The Autism Toolbox: An Autism Resource for Scottish Schools”. Published in 2014, the toolbox provides guidance on planning, pupil support and staff training, as well as sharing examples of best practice. The toolbox’s online resource also provides a forum for continually updating and disseminating good practice.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

In recent months, a number of families in my constituency have raised with me concerns about the support that is available for their children, particularly as they transition from nursery school to primary 1, where a presumption of mainstreaming applies but is not always backed up with the support that is required. I am concerned that a lack of support might impact on the educational attainment of some of our most vulnerable children. I suspect that the situation is not isolated to Glasgow. As part of addressing the attainment gap, will the cabinet secretary review how local authorities provide such support for vulnerable children?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I certainly believe that the framework that we have in place, including the legislative framework of the 2009 act, should address exactly Mr Doris’s point. I am obviously happy to look at any particular examples and experiences that he has to ensure that that is happening. Fundamentally, the Government and the public sector have an obligation to work to get it right for every child in Scotland. That means meeting the needs of young people, whatever their circumstances. Young people who have autism will have particular support requirements and, in fulfilling their responsibilities, all public authorities should take account of that within the legislative framework of the 2009 act.

If Mr Doris cares to write to me with any further detail, I would be happy to explore the issue on his behalf.