Additional Support for Learning (Presumption of Mainstreaming)

Portfolio Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 6 June 2024.

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Photo of Michelle Thomson Michelle Thomson Scottish National Party 2:00, 6 June 2024

To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to address any issues regarding the implementation of the presumption of mainstreaming, as set out in the recent Education, Children and Young People Committee report on its inquiry into additional support for learning. (S6O-03533)

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I welcome the Education, Children and Young People Committee’s report on additional support for learning, and I am grateful to everyone who contributed to the committee’s inquiry and gave evidence to inform that important work.

Education authorities have a key role in delivering provision for additional support needs, and it is therefore important that we engage fully with our key partners who work with us to deliver education before responding.

I made a commitment to the committee to pause our work on a progress report and an updated ASL action plan while we consider the recommendations from the committee’s inquiry. I will provide a formal response to the committee by 10 July, at its request, and I will then publish an updated action plan in the autumn of this year.

Photo of Michelle Thomson Michelle Thomson Scottish National Party

I have been contacted by a number of constituents in recent weeks regarding placement requests that have been considered, then refused, by the local authority. One of the frustrations of my constituents that is highlighted in the committee’s report is the lack of information that is provided in refusal letters, as well as the lack of information for parents as to how their children’s learning and support needs would be accommodated in mainstream education. The committee’s report recommends that the code of practice and the ASL action plan be updated to require local authorities to

“clearly set out to parents and carers the grounds for refusal”

and, crucially,

“what support is being made available to their child”.

Will the cabinet secretary confirm that she will work with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and other agencies to ensure that those updates are made swiftly?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I thank the member for her interest in the matter. Those frustrations were voiced in the committee inquiry’s evidence sessions, of which I took cognisance. I have been keen that we in the Government listen to the committee’s findings and reflect them in our updated ASL action plan. To that end, I was clear in my own evidence to the committee that there is a need to provide more clarity for parents and carers, particularly in relation to the placing requests to which the member alludes. The action plan has a very strong focus on improving the consistency and visibility of our communications on ASL policy and the legislative position, which will address the points made by the member. We are also committed to refreshing the ASL code of practice, and work is on-going in that area, too.

Photo of Pam Duncan-Glancy Pam Duncan-Glancy Labour

This morning, I visited CALL Scotland at the University of Edinburgh and had the opportunity to see the fantastic work that it does. A particular concern that it shared was the fact that none of the 76 actions in the ASL action plan is on inclusive digital learning, and it mentions assistive technology only once. The Doran review made recommendations on that 12 years ago. I understand that the Government is focused on the Morgan review, but it would be a lost opportunity if the Doran review were shelved. What is the cabinet secretary doing to ensure that inclusive digital learning can happen in every school where it is needed? What reassurance can she give to CALL Scotland that inclusive digital learning will remain a key part of her response to the intolerable circumstances that pupils with additional support needs face?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

Pam Duncan-Glancy has raised a really important matter in relation to the role that digital technology can play, particularly in supporting those with additional support needs in our schools. I am more than happy to write to her on the specific point that she has made.

It is important that the Government listens to the findings of the committee’s inquiry. We had hoped to publish the ASL action plan in advance of the committee’s report, but I paused that so that I could listen to the committee’s challenge on that. It is important that we do that.

I will write to Pam Duncan-Glancy in more detail about digital learning. She is correct to say that the ASL action plan is predicated on the Morgan review, which was published more recently, in 2020. However, it is important that we do not lose the learning from the Doran report.