“There is a duty to provide additional support for learning when any child or young person needs support for whatever reason.” (Curriculum for Excellence)
For over 10 years how we approach the care and education of our children and young people has been changing in Scotland. So gradual has it been that many have not appreciated the transformative change that has occurred. Key to it all are the needs of the child or young person being placed at the centre of service provision. Adapting the system around the child not bending the child to fit the convenience of the system.
Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) underpins children’s services and our approach to our young people. But are we beginning to lose sight of this as more reforms take place and local authorities look for where they can make cuts?
Are most councillors who vote through these cuts to children’s services and educational provision even aware of their obligations under GIRFEC and its related legislation.
What is GIRFEC?
“The GIRFEC approach has been tested and developed across Scotland over a period of more than ten years, during which children’s services have become more integrated and child-centred. It has been endorsed by successive governments and more and more organisations are committing to its principles and practice” GIRFEC
“GIRFEC ensures children and young people get consistent and effective support for their wellbeing wherever they live or learn. Making good practice the national standard in Scotland.”
Most children and young people will require a level of support at some point whether it be in education or in other areas. For children with extra additional needs this will mean a ‘Child’s Plan’ although all schools should have individual planning for pupils/students. You can find out more about the Child’s Plan by clicking on the link.
How GIRFEC has underpinned other legislation?
What GIRFEC did was to change the mindset of legislators and policy developers in Scotland.
From the very start of a child’s life we have seen the change taking place – with the Baby Box where every child in Scotland is gifted a box with useful items and information on their start in life. Over 30,000 have been delivered and the scheme was very successful in Orkney where it was first piloted.
So we have Baby Boxes , an extension to early years provision including increased training places for those who wish a career in pre-school, all the way through to free tuition fees and the lowering of the voting age to 16 for Scottish Parliament and local elections.
One of the elements of GIRFEC was also the Named Person scheme which although it had been running successfully in some local authorities it’s implementation was successfully challenged when it was proposed to roll it out across Scotland. This resulted in new legislation having to be brought in principally over the sharing of information.
The Curriculum for Excellence (CfE)
In schools the transformative effects of GIRFEC fed into the development of The Curriculum for Excellence. It’s aim was to provide “a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum from 3 to 18.”
In Planning for Learning amongst the stated guidance is that schools must:
- “ensure that an establishment’s own values and priorities, such as equalities, are taken forward through learning experiences”
- “ensure that every learner achieves her/his potential through breadth, challenge and application”
Opportunities must be provided for learners to learn individually, to take personal control over their learning, to be active and develop problem solving skills and to be able to collaborate with others. Our classrooms and schools have to be inclusive environments where a variety of teaching and learning methods are employed. Learning is more active requiring teachers and learning support staff to facilitate the process.
Support for All
A key part of The Curriculum for Excellence is Support for All where it is acknowledged that some children will require additional support. Why is this?
Answer “Curriculum for Excellence is an inclusive curriculum from 3 to 18 wherever learning is taking place.”
“There is a duty to provide additional support for learning when any child or young person needs support for whatever reason.”
And we have legislation around this to ensure that takes place with Additional Support for Learning.
In the Additional Support for Learning Act (2004):
“The key duties on education authorities are to identify, make provision for, and review provision for the additional support needs of children and young people for whose education they are responsible. “
This Act was amended 2 years later to make it even clearer the rights of the child to expect support when it is needed, that consultation must take place before changes are made and it includes additional information for parents.
To make sure this is all being followed through there is also Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities so that they carry out their duties. Education Authorities are under a duty to have regard to the code in their educational provision to children and young people.
And it states:
“All children and young people are entitled to support. This universal support is rooted in the environment in which they learn, along with its related ethos and relationships. All staff have a responsibility to take an approach which promotes and supports fairness for all.”
Cuts to Learning Support
Across Scotland cuts are being made by local authorities to the support children and young people receive at school. This is despite GIRFEC, CfE and the Additional Support for Needs Act which specify quite clearly the duties of local authorities to provide the support and more importantly which fail to understand the transformative changes that have taken place in Scotland with Getting It Right For Every Child.
Cuts in Orkney
In Orkney the number of support for learning staff has been falling despite the number of pupils requiring support increasing.
Support for Learning Staff
- 2014/15: 106
- 2016/17: 98
Pupils recorded with additional needs
- 2014/15: 294 (primary), 326 (secondary)
- 2016/17: 394(primary), 325(secondary
Support for learning provision will struggle in Orkney as councillors voted to implement cuts to its funding in February 2018.
In an attempt to reverse this decision Councillor Stephen Clackson will introduce a Notice of Motion. It states:
“We, the undersigned, hereby request that Orkney Islands Council reconsider the decision of the Full Council made at the Special General Meeting held on 22 February 2018 on the casting vote of the Convener in relation to the setting of the Council’s Budget & Council Tax Level for 2018 to 2019. Specifically, we request that Efficiency Saving EDELH05, relating to savings of £65,000 within the Education Service, be removed from the efficiency savings proposed for this Budget, with the resultant cost being met from the General Fund contingency.”
Councillor Clackson has the support of fellow councillors: Gwenda Shearer, David Dawson, Sandy Cowie, John Richards, Steven Heddle and Magnus Thomson.
Why is it important that this decision is reversed? Why should support for learning not get cut back like many other services?
As I have set out in this article the nature of educational provision, what we do in our schools has changed. The CfE requires active learning and for that to be a worthwhile experience it needs to be adequately staffed. The Additional Support for Learning legislation has set out a Code which local authorities are expected to follow. GIRFEC underpinning all the related legislation has transformed not just the provision of services for children and young people but that their expectations should be met.
Learning not only takes place within a classroom environment but in play areas and at lunch time. These are often the most challenging periods for children with additional needs and when they require the support of staff. If our schools are to continue to develop as inclusive environments where all children and staff are valued then that has a financial price. To cut back on support for pupils with additional needs will not only directly affect their ability to access learning opportunities (both socially and academically) but it will affect all those around them – other pupils and staff.
This is the Year of Young People and yet across Scotland, including Orkney, those very services that many of our young people rely on to give them that extra help when they need it is being cut back. Councillors making these decisions should be reminded of the requirements of GIRFEC and their duties as our elected representatives to embrace its values and aims.
If we value all our young people and wish them to succeed then cutting back on providing them with the support they need to access the curriculum must be stopped. It’s short term, short sighted thinking. Perhaps all councillors should go back to school for a day and see for themselves the transformation that has taken place in Scotland’s education system. Let’s get it right for every child.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame