Scottish Government launches consultation on guidance for mainstreaming


The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on new guidance on ‘the presumption to mainstream education’.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney made the announcement to the Scottish Parliament as he reaffirmed the government’s commitment to mainstreaming as a central pillar of inclusive education.

He said:

The Scottish approach to inclusion is already unparalleled, our legislative and policy commitments are amongst the most extensive in the world. However, we must improve the experience of inclusion for all children and young people, whether that is in mainstream, special or shared settings, if we are to deliver on the promise of such an ambitious framework.

That is why we are launching a consultation on new guidance on the presumption of mainstreaming. It aims to bridge the gap between legislation, policy and day-to-day experience and to ensure that local authorities have the tools they need to support their decision-making in applying the presumption of mainstream education.

Importantly, I also announced that independent research will be undertaken to explore children, young people and families’ experiences of support. That research will help us identify what is already working well and where we can improve.

I continue to be clear that my ambition is for all children and young people to be able to reach their full potential, including those who require additional support in their learning.

The consultation will seek views on refreshed guidance to support decision making. It will take place alongside independent research into the experiences of children, parents, school staff and education authorities. Both will be used to inform future policy development and reporting.

Councillor Stephen McCabe, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) Children and Young People spokesperson, said:

We welcome the consultation on the guidance and work to develop a greater understanding of experiences of inclusion and mainstreaming in Scottish schools. Local authorities strive, working with children and their families, to get it right for every child, and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government and partners to build on the excellent practice that exists across Scotland to support children who have additional support needs.

Jan Savage, ENABLE Scotland Executive Director of External Affairs & Strategic Development, commented:

ENABLE Scotland was pleased to work with the Scottish Government in the development of this guidance which, 17 years on from the inception of the legal presumption to mainstream, goes beyond the right to be present, to the right to be genuinely included.  

It recognises the need to ensure that all children and young people have equitable opportunities to participate as fully as possible in all aspects of school life, including school trips, games and extracurricular activity. Our award-winning campaign, #IncludED in the Main?!, highlighted the need for this focus — and evidenced that this is something which teachers, young people and parents have waited a long time for.

Martin Vallely, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland representative said:

In 2017, we face greater expectations for inclusive schools than ever before. We do not underestimate this challenge, however, with a curriculum designed for all, a recognition of the critical role of partnership in improving outcomes for children in need and greater awareness of the rights and the voice of the child, we have never been in a better position to get this right. 

When one in four learners in Scotland’s schools require additional support for learning, we welcome the recognition that inclusion is something that involves all learners, the whole school and all our partners.

The preparation of the guidance taking account of the ambition to close the attainment gap is very timely. This will help schools and partners to align all efforts to the common end of improving outcomes for all and achieving equity for learners.


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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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