I mentioned a while back that I was going to write a journalistic piece of Additional Support for learning in Scotland, well this isn’t really it. It has become a bit more of an ongoing piece of research which may result in an end report. I looked at online resources to build my piece on and was less than impressed so I have been attempting to do some of my own. I wanted to fill you in on how it was going so far.
I had noticed through a combination of personal experience, teachers comments and knowing student teachers that there is a severe lack in ASL which has been worsening over the last decade and prominently over the last few years. In behaviour support especially there has been under provision of support making it difficult if not nearly impossible for teachers to provide and effective education to the class as a whole. I have seen experienced teachers struggling to control classes due to significant reductions in support never mind new student teachers on their first placement. I know of a student who had their first placement in a class with 4 children with ADHD with no support, not even a classroom assistant. How is that fair on the student? never mind the other children who are being constantly distracted or the those with the condition who are not receiving the necessary attention.
The most severe lack of support I have seen is in Dumfries and Galloway where the budget has been decimated in ASL by the local Council. The Scottish government claim that Dumfries & Galloway receive their fair share of the overall block grant and with that should be utilising it to provide suitable ASL. Then what has gone wrong? It appears to all intents and purposes that Dumfries and Galloway Council has decided they can’t really be bothered providing support unless someone goes to the papers about how their child is being neglected by the education system, at which point the council will award the child with around half of the support deemed necessary. Otherwise the teachers are on their own.
What’s gone wrong is the controls put on local government to ensure this support is given. The main act binding authorities with regards to ASL is the Education (Additional Support for Learning)(Scotland) Act 2004. It states in section 4(1)(a)
“Every education authority must- in relation to each child and young person having additional support needs for whose school education the authority are responsible, make adequate and efficient provision for such additional support as is required by that child or young person”
This would seem to make it clear by law that support must be provided. Unfortunately there is a pretty glaring exemption clause here in section 2(b)
“Subsection (1)(a) does not require an education authority to do anything which—would result in unreasonable public expenditure being incurred”
With Dumfries and Galloway claiming they face unreasonable cuts to their grant (the Scottish government claiming it is fair) then what can be deemed reasonable expenditure may be going down. This provides the council’s main excuse for almost everything “cost”.
So then it is clear to the outside observers eye that there is a major failing in the system and as such they all want to pass the blame. The teachers will blame the council, the council will blame the government, the government will blame the council but the council and government will both do it in a way that neither can be held properly to account. The government will say so long as they comply with the legislation it is out with their power; the council will show they comply with the legislation, as the exemptions mean they don’t actually have to do anything, and blame the extent to which they can comply on the government.
I have not studied how a case works under this act in court but I would imagine it would go as I have described. So if everyone is to blame but no-one can be held officially accountable what is there to do? An out there solution may be found the European Convention of Human Rights Protocol 1 Article 2 the right to education. Although the act dictates that an effective education should be given it does provide some restrictions to further define this; however, the ECHR has been stretched further than this before and technically speaking ASL is an existing facility that is required by many to create an effective education.
This Human Rights point is more controversial and if anyone has a knowledge of whether you think that could be a valid ground then I would love to hear from you.