Support for all

All Scotland's children and young people are entitled to support to enable them to gain as much as possible from the opportunities that Curriculum for Excellence provides. Some children may need additional support.


Curriculum for Excellence is an inclusive curriculum from 3 to 18 wherever learning is taking place.

Equalities legislation has been put in place relating to race, gender, age, disability, religion or belief and sexual orientation.

The Additional Support for Learning legislation in Scotland also promotes inclusion. There is a duty to provide additional support for learning when any child or young person needs support for whatever reason.

Supporting Children’s Learning Code of Practice, the statutory guidance which accompanies the Additional Support for Learning Act explains that there is a range of factors that may give rise to a child’s additional support needs. These include the learning environment that the child encounters, social and emotional factors, health and disability and the child’s family circumstances.

The diversity of learners challenges policy makers, teachers and others to provide education that is able to flexibly respond to that diversity. We need to respond in such a way that barriers to participation, learning and achievement are removed, inclusion and equality are promoted and a high quality education for all is developed and sustained.

The Scottish Government published guidance Included, Engaged and Involved Part 1: attendance in Scottish schools (2007) aims to promote good attendance in schools and provides guidance for Local Authorities and schools on how to promote engagement and motivation, including among those who may be at risk of poor attendance.

The Scottish Government published Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2: a positive approach to managing school exclusions (IEI2) in 2011 provides guidance and support to Local Authorities, schools and other learning establishments and their partners to keep all children and young people fully included, engaged and involved in their education wherever this takes places; and to improve outcomes for those most at risk of exclusion.


All children and young people need support to help them learn and develop. The needs of the child or young person should always be central to the identification, planning and provision of support. Support should be appropriate, proportionate and timely.

Building the Curriculum 3 (PDF file) sets out a range of entitlements for all children. These include the commitment that every child and young person is entitled to support to enable them to:

  • gain as much as possible from the opportunities which Curriculum for Excellence can provide
  • move into a positive and sustained destination.

Universal support

Universal support starts with the ethos, climate and relationships within every learning environment. It is the responsibility of all practitioners and partners.

An environment which is caring, inclusive, fair and focused on delivering learning to meet individual needs will encourage all children and young people to strive to meet their learning potential.

Personal learning planning is at the heart of supporting learning. The conversations about learning, reviewing progress and planning next steps are central to this process. Planned opportunities for achievement which focus on the learning and progress made through activities across the full range of contexts and settings in which the curriculum is experienced also contribute to the universal aspect of support.

In addition, all children and young people should have frequent and regular opportunities to discuss their learning and development with an adult who knows them well and with whom they have a mutually trusting relationship. This key member of staff has the holistic overview of the child or young person’s learning and personal development.

Targeted support

Children and young people can benefit from additional or targeted support, tailored to their individual circumstances. This could be at any points of their learning journey or throughout the journey.

Barriers to learning may arise from specific learning difficulties, disability, social, emotional or behavioural needs, bereavement or family issues. Additional support may also be required to ensure progress in learning for the gifted and able, looked after children and young people, young carers, Gypsies and Travellers, asylum seekers and those for whom English is not a first language.

Targeted support also encompasses children and young people requiring more choices and more chances to achieve positive, sustained post-school destinations.

This 'targeted' support is usually, but not exclusively, delivered by staff with additional training and expertise. In a secondary school, this support may be coordinated by guidance/pastoral care/pupil support staff through a staged intervention process.

Protected characteristics

The Equality Act 2010 made it illegal to discriminate against people because of their:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage or civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

These are known as protected characteristics. Links to guidance for the application of the act in schools, colleges and other settings can be found at the bottom of this page.

The Equality Act 2010 also gives the duty to advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not and to foster good relations between them. This would include taking steps to meet the needs of persons who share a relevant protected characteristic such as LGBT learners.


Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) is the foundation for work with all children and young people, including adult services where parents are involved. It builds on universal health and education services, and is embedded in the developing early years and youth frameworks. Read more on the Scottish Government website.

Positive behaviour

Good relationships and positive behaviour are key to the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence.

Building Curriculum for Excellence through positive relationships and behaviour

Better relationships, better learning, better behaviour

Looked After and Accommodated Children

The number of children and young people becoming looked after has increased year on year over the last two decades. The reasons for children becoming looked after are more complex but the overwhelming majority are placed for care and protection reasons and that number is increasing annually.

Children and young people may be looked after for short or long periods; some return home, some are adopted, and some remain looked after for many years until they reach adulthood.

Read more on the Centre of Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland website

Children’s rights

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most universally accepted human rights instrument in history. It spells out the basic human rights that are the rights of children everywhere – without discrimination.

Read more on the UN website.

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

ESOL is the umbrella term used to describe the provision of English language learning in Scotland. It is delivered by a range of providers, including community learning and development, colleges, schools and voluntary sector organisations.

Provision is publicly funded but there is also a growing number of private language schools that tend to provide intensive English language courses for people visiting Scotland on a short-term basis.

ESOL takes place in settings such as schools, colleges and community based settings, as well as in workplaces and the home. It supports the language learning needs of a diverse range of people, living in Scotland, whose first language is not English. These include refugees, asylum seekers, migrant workers, settled minority communities and their families.

ESOL provision is one way to enable people to contribute fully to Scotland's society and economy. Learning the English language can help to: reduce isolation and improve mental health and wellbeing; encourage social networks; support progression into further learning; support integration and community cohesion; improve employment opportunities; and promote positive working relations within the workplace.

Scotland has its own ESOL strategy:
Welcoming Our Learners: Scotland's ESOL Strategy 2015-2020.

The ESOL Summary report considers how funding has been used to support the delivery of the ESOL programme:

PDF file: ESOL Summary report 2015-16 (182 KB)

PDF file: ESOL Summary report 2016-17 (867 KB)​


Related links

Scottish Government publication: UNCRC: The foundation of Getting it right for every child

Scottish Government children’s rights page

Equality Act (2010)

Technical guidance for schools in Scotland for the Equality Act (2010) regarding discrimination

What equality law means for you as an education provider – Schools

What equality law means for you as an education provider – Further education