Country information for UK (Scotland) - Assessment within inclusive education systems

The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended) states that:

a child or young person has additional support needs for the purposes of this Act where, for whatever reason, the child or young person is, or is likely to be, unable without the provision of additional support to benefit from school education.


a child or young person has additional support needs if the child or young person is looked after by a local authority (within the meaning of section 17(6) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995).

This ceases to apply once the local authority has assessed the pupil and has concluded they can benefit from education without the provision of additional support.

Supporting Children’s Learning Code of Practice, the statutory guidance which accompanies the Act, explains that a range of factors may give rise to a pupil’s additional support needs. These include the pupil’s learning environment, social and emotional factors, health and disability and the pupil’s family circumstances. Inclusion in the above list does not mean that additional support is automatically necessary. Every child is seen as an individual and what affects one child may not affect another. Additional support needs may be short- or long-term.

The Act places a duty on education authorities (EAs) to identify pupils with additional support needs and those who may require a co-ordinated support plan. Under the Act, a parent also has the right to ask an EA to consider whether their child has additional support needs and whether they might require a co-ordinated support plan.

The Act requires EAs to take action at various transition points in a pupil’s education. For example, if a pupil is moving from primary to secondary school, the EA must start to gather information and views from appropriate agencies that have been working with the pupil at least 12 months before the move.

Supporting Children’s Learning Code of Practice explains the duties on EAs and other agencies to support pupils’ learning. Chapters include meeting additional support needs, co-ordinated support plans, transitions and resolving disagreements.

EAs draw up co-ordinated support plans if they are responsible for the education of a pupil who:

  • needs support due to complex or multiple factors that adversely and significantly affect their school education;
  • has needs that are likely to last for more than a year;
  • needs significant additional support from the EA and another department of the local authority (such as social work services) or another agency such as a health board, or both, to reach their educational objectives.

The support plans are statutory and co-ordinate and record the support to be provided. The plans have specific rights attached to them.

2019 Review

In 2019, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills initiated an independent review of implementation of additional support for learning. The review began in October 2019 and reported to Scottish Ministers and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) in February 2020. It considered a breadth of evidence and engaged with a range of individuals and groups, to inform its conclusions and recommendations. The report was published on 19 June 2020.

The review found that additional support for learning policy and legislation was effective. However, it made a number of recommendations across nine broad themes on how to enhance implementation of additional support for learning to improve outcomes and experiences for children and young people.

The Scottish Government, COSLA and the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) accepted the recommendations made by the review. They published a joint response action plan on 21 October 2020, which sets out a range of interlinked actions to address these recommendations. One of the actions will be to refresh the statutory Supporting Children’s Learning Code of Practice to ensure that it continues to fully support schools and local authorities to fulfil their duties under the Act. 


Last updated 24/03/2021

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