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LEARNING BILL WELCOMED BY SCOTTISH COUNCILS

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The Additional Support for Learning Bill (see ...
The Additional Support for Learning Bill (see LGCnetfor full details) has been given the broad support of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

COSLA's education spokesperson, Ewan Aitken, said: 'COSLA fully supports a more integrated approach to the education of children and young people having difficulties with their schooling and believes that the bill will further promote the culture of social inclusion by reforming the system under which they are given help with this.

'The bill will put in place a more flexible and less bureaucratic approach to identifying and addressing the educational support needs of youngsters, on the presumption that they should, as far as possible, be educated in mainstream schools.

'It should also capture a wider range of youngsters requiring support, including the many children with social and emotional difficulties arising from family and other circumstances, that adversely affect their schooling.

'The proposed Code of Practice setting out minimum standards and strengthening inter-agency working to address support needs should also help to bring about a very welcome measure of greater consistency across Scotland, and COSLA very much looks forward to working with the Scottish executive in developing the code.

'We are however concerned that for the Bill to work well in these respects adequate funding needs to be available to pay for the appropriate support in mainstream classrooms, including staff development, additional support staff, adaptations to school facilities etc.'

Mr Aitken continued: 'Actual expenditure on providing this support - which may be difficult to estimate well in advance - should be c losely monitored by the Scottish executive and any funding gaps refunded in full, and we would expect to have continuing discussions with the executive in this regard.

'The duties on education authorities to facilitate mediation and disputes resolution for parents unhappy about provision for support needs will place demands on education authority staff that will also need to be adequately resourced.

'We are concerned that other agencies, particularly in health, should play their full part in assisting schools with therapy and other services, whose duties should be spelt out clearly under the legislation, including making good any deficiencies that have hampered proper provision in the past.

'We believe that the bill could be widened in scope to bring additional support for learning under a unified - and ideally more simplified - system for addressing the needs of all children and young people and for the co-ordinated Learning Plan, under the bill, to form an integral part of the learning plan for all passing through the educational system. We are concerned that the bill -and its proposals for handling appeals and placing requests - could reintroduce a system that is as complex and confusing as the one it is meant to reform.

'The bill offers a real opportunity to streamline and integrate the assessment and planning of our children's' educational, social and health needs. If we seize on this and secure the investment and commitment it requires from all agencies we can transform the quality of support for the children who need it most.'

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