We want all children and young people to be able to make the most of their educational opportunities. Education authorities have duties under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of all their pupils, which includes ensuring that appropriate resources are in place to support pupils in their learning. The 2004 act is supplemented by specific guidance on meeting the healthcare needs of pupils while they are attending school and supporting children who are unable to attend school due to ill health.
The prevalence of children with life-limiting conditions in Scotland is increasing, and such children are surviving longer, meaning that many schools are now encountering complex medical conditions, which was not previously the case. Although the new guidance to which the cabinet secretary alluded addresses the issue of the liability that falls on individual staff members who support pupils’ healthcare needs, there is a question as to whether it addresses the specific needs of children who require enteral feeding or medication.
Given that the prevalence of children who require tube feeding or medication may increase in the future, is the cabinet secretary willing to explore whether more specific guidance might be required, and would he be willing to meet me to discuss the issue further?
I am happy to explore the issue further. It concerns a very specialist set of circumstances. Having visited a number of educational facilities that provide support to young people who require tube feeding, I understand the complexities and challenges that it presents. Obviously, it could present a particularly acute challenge in a mainstream school environment. I am happy to meet Mr McDonald to hear his views on how more focused guidance might help educational practitioners in that respect.
The cabinet secretary will be aware of press reports with regard to inappropriate restraint at Clydeview school, which is in my constituency. Can I have an assurance from the cabinet secretary that concerns about restraint—such as are highlighted by the Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland, Bruce Adamson, in the report “No Safe Place: Restraint and Seclusion in Scotland's Schools”—are being addressed?
I am aware of the report to which Clare Adamson refers. Those issues have been drawn to the attention of North Lanarkshire Council, which has been very open in supplying information to the Government. North Lanarkshire Council is investigating the incident, which is also the subject of a Police Scotland investigation. It would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment further on the circumstances of the Clydeview case.
In general, the Government’s guidance on the use of restraint is crystal clear that it should only ever be used as a last resort after all other interventions have been exhausted and only in circumstances in which the safety of members of staff or of the child concerned would be supported as a consequence of restraint. However, I stress that it should be used only in the most limited set of circumstances, when all other avenues of positive intervention have been exhausted.