Since then, it has been reassuring to see the commitment of the Scottish Government through investment and policy to increase access to counselors in Scottish schools.
Writing in 2022, we again call on the Scottish Government to look to another of our home countries to find an answer to a challenge faced by some of our most vulnerable children and young people. We continue to see an increase in the number of children and young people identified as needing additional support. Despite this, alarmingly, we continue to see an incredibly low number of Coordinated Support Plans (CSPs).
This issue had caused such concern that it prompted the Scottish Government to establish a Short-Term Working Group (SLWG) focusing on CSPs, which published its report in November 2021.
One of the barriers identified in this regard was the sharing of CSPs with other education and multi-agency support groups, which led to the observation that we may be looking to the English system.
In England, the principle of graduated aid is applied. This is described as a four-part cycle that increases in detail and frequency, to identify the support needed to ensure the child is making adequate progress.
It starts with a needs assessment at school. Next, a plan is formulated to ensure the proper support is in place. This leads to the “do” phase of the cycle – implementing the plan. The fourth part of the cycle is the exam. There is, however, a fundamental difference in the approach taken by England and Scotland.
Where in-school approaches do not work in England, the school seeks support from outside professionals, which may lead to an education, health and care (EHC) needs assessment, which at in turn prompts the creation of an EHC plan. The involvement of professionals is a progressive step in the process leading to the development of the plan. In Scotland, the processes are subtly, but significantly different.
The creation of a CSP is governed by a number of very specific criteria – whether there are one or more complex needs, whether they are likely to last more than a year and whether the needs require the support of a or more organizations as well as the school authority. This is where children and families in Scotland can start having difficulty getting a plan. For the creation of a CSP in Scotland, there must already be at least one agency in addition to the school concerned.
Long waiting lists for specialized services such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, and child and adult mental health services create an immediate barrier to establishing a CSP. In England, the EHC needs assessment ‘invites’ the involvement of these services, while in Scotland the CSP ‘requires’ it.
It is the subtle but significant difference that we urge the Scottish Government to make as part of its continued commitment to delivering great outcomes for all children and young people.