GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Comhairle Choitcheann Teagaisg na h-Alba

Opinion: The shocking realities of inequity

Angela Morgan’s review into additional support for learning raises serious questions about effective inclusion and mainstreaming

Every so often, you come across a shocking statistic that stops you dead in your tracks and gives you cause to think deeply.

One such statistic is Sir David Attenborough’s recent stark warning that, of the estimated eight million species on planet Earth, a million are now threatened with extinction. Another is a recent World Bank statistic that, despite remarkable progress, 15,000 children in the world still die every day, mostly of preventable or treatable causes.
Such broad, global statistics, although deeply troubling, are often difficult to assimilate into the context of day-to-day life in our comparatively privileged Scottish society. Also, having the time to think deeply about anything can be difficult at the moment as we all deal with the here-and-now challenges in our schools and home lives presented by Covid.

There is, however, one such shocking statistic that is much closer to home, and which has been impacting increasingly on all of us involved in the Scottish education system. In the last 10 years (2009 to 2019),
we have seen a near six-fold increase from 5.4% to 30.9% of children and young people with a recorded additional support need in our schools.

It has to be acknowledged that some of this increase is due to continued improvements in recording and the introduction of more additional needs plans. However, it is a statistic we cannot ignore; moreover it should be remembered that some children and young people have more than one type of additional support need, so the figures do not really show the full picture.

Latest research

Fifteen years after publication of the seminal Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, the Scottish Government commissioned Angela Morgan to conduct a review into how additional support for learning (ASL) is working in practice today. In the nine interconnected themes she sets out in her report, Support for Learning: All our Children and All their Potential, Angela acknowledges the complex nature of the ASL landscape.
She recognises that the principles of inclusion and of the presumption of mainstreaming in education are widely and strongly supported. However, her report also raises serious questions for everyone in Scottish education as to how well prepared we really are in translating inclusion and mainstreaming into effective practice and support for all children and young people.

Angela’s report is a must read, as it has some hard-hitting messages for us all if we are to respond effectively to the ever increasing number of children and young people with additional support needs. This edition of Teaching Scotland has a strong focus on ASL and supporting children and young people with additional support needs. I am delighted that Angela has contributed an article on pages 16-17.

Helping young people with additional support needs

Following the Scottish Government Education and Skills Committee’s 2017 report How is Additional Support for Learning working in practice?, and the concerns expressed in it about the skills and capacity of student teachers and many teachers in the area of ASL, GTC Scotland embarked on a number of projects to help registrants.
This began with the production and distribution to all student teachers and registrants of the Salvesen Mindroom Centre booklet It takes all kinds of minds; we have continued to provide student teachers with a copy over the past three years.

This booklet, which covers five main areas of learning difficulty, gives examples of how teachers can make simple changes to their practice to better support children and young people with learning difficulties. It has received rave reviews and has been supplemented more recently by other excellent Salvesen resources available on our website.
To further help teachers support children and young people with additional support needs, GTC Scotland has published a professional guide on equality and diversity, which includes two supporting online professional learning modules. These are available in the newly-launched GTC Scotland Equality and Diversity Hub.

In addition, we have published a number of other online professional guides that will complement the increased focus given to additional support needs in the revised Professional Standards for teachers. These guides have been written in partnership with specialist bodies and we are grateful to them for their support on this important project. They focus on autism, neurodiversity, and dyslexia. A guide on trauma-informed practice (with the Robertson Trust) will follow shortly. Recognising that, more than ever, time for professional learning is a precious resource, these professional guides are deliberately short and easy to read, with very practical guidance that encourages reflection with advice that can be readily adopted into teaching practice.

Mahatma Gandhi said that “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members’. This is a timely reminder to us all as we look to address the recommendations in Angela Morgan’s report and as we strive for excellence and genuine equity in Scottish education.

Additional information

You can find all the booklets, professional guides
and hubs mentioned in this article at  www.gtcs.org.uk/professional-update/resources-hub.aspx  and at bit.ly/gtcsPublications