The Scottish Government guidance we have been looking at is called “Guidance on the presumption to provide education in a mainstream setting“, and yet it is only now – on page 13 of the document – that we reach consideration of the sometimes thorny issue of deciding on the right provision for a child or young person.
In this, the fifth part of a series on the Scottish Government (2019) Guidance on the presumption to provide education in a mainstream setting, we will be looking at the third of the “Key features of inclusion” : Achieving.
A recent decision of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) provides a useful reminder of the importance of schools having and implementing their own anti-bullying policies.
The complaint, against the Highland Council, was that they had failed to ensure that the school attended by the complainant’s daughter had an anti-bullying policy in place. The SPSO upheld the complaint. Although the Council’s own policy was thorough, the Ombudsman found that the school did not have its own policy in place that sufficiently met the requirements of the council’s policy.
The SPSO recommended that the council:
- apologise to Miss C and Miss A for the failings identified in this case; and
- reflect on the failings identified and advise us of the actions they will take to address these.
“A National Approach to Anti-Bullying for Scotland’s Children and Young People” (Scottish Government, 2010) was drawn up by the Scottish Anti-Bullying Steering Group (SABS) which included representation from a number of relevant public and voluntary sector bodies.
The National Approach adopts a definition of bullying which is focussed on its impact on those experiencing it:
“Bullying can be understood as behaviour which leaves people feeling helpless, frightened, anxious, depressed or humiliated.” (p4)
It sets anti-bullying firmly in the context of GIRFEC and the Curriculum for Excellence, and adopts as one of its key principles:
“We will seek to prevent and tackle bullying, through the development and implementation of effective anti-bullying policies and practices … We will address the needs of children and young people who are bullied as well as those who bully within a framework of respect, responsibility, resolution and support” (p8)
A school’s anti-bullying policy and practice are therefore seen as the main ways in which preventing and tackling bullying is done.
The National Approach is clear that all organisations that work with children and young people should develop and implement an anti-bullying policy.
It goes on to specify that anti-bullying policies should include the following (p9):
- a statement which lays out the organisational stance on bullying behaviour;
a definition of bullying, developed through consultation creating a shared understanding between all parties involved;
- expectations or codes of behaviour and responsibilities for staff and children and young people;
- preventative and reactive strategies showing what an organisation commits itself to, what strategies it will employ when faced with bullying incidents or allegations and to prevent bullying from happening;
- clarity on how and how often the organisation will communicate its anti-bullying policy and to whom; and how parents and carers will be informed of incidents;
- the recording and monitoring strategies that will be used for management purposes; and
- how and how often the policy will be evaluated to understand how successful and effective the policy is.
By following the National Approach, schools will be best placed to create a strong anti-bullying ethos and to respond effectively to incidents of bullying as they arise.
Image credit: By Alejandrasotomange (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Much of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 is due to come into force this autumn (subject to anything the Supreme Court may have to say in the case of Christian Institute & Ors v. Scottish Ministers). This has been characterised by some as GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) becoming law.
However, there are at least some parts of the GIRFEC framework which already carry (some) legal weight, by virtue of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004. That Act (in section 27) requires the Scottish Ministers to prepare a statutory Code of Practice (currently in its 2nd edition), to which education authorities and other appropriate agencies must have regard in carrying out their functions.
The Code has a lot to say about GIRFEC already (and it was published in 2010). Here’s some of the highlights:
“Effective assessment, planning, action and review, consistent with the values and principles of Curriculum for Excellence, Getting it right for every child, the Early Years Framework and the provisions of this Act, involve:
- taking a holistic view of children and young people and their circumstances, and what they need to grow and develop and achieve their potential;
- seeking, taking account of and noting the views of children, parents and young people and involving them fully in the assessment process and in finding solutions;
- ensuring that parents, children and young people, understand, and are asked to agree to, the aims of any assessment and the purposes of any action proposed ensuring that assessment is an ongoing, integrated process of gathering and evaluating information, planning, providing for, and reviewing, services for the individual;
- adopting the least intrusive and most effective course of action affecting the lives of children, young people and families;
- taking into account issues of diversity and equality and ensuring that outcomes do not discriminate against children, young people and their families. This includes not discriminating on grounds of race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, language, culture, religion or belief, and age.
- working in partnership with, and building the capacity of, parents to secure education for their children and to promote their child‘s health and wellbeing, development and welfare.”
“Those with additional support needs comprise a broad group of children and young people whose needs require to be identified, understood and addressed to ensure that they benefit from school education. Education authorities need to play their part in ensuring that there is effective communication, collaboration and integrated assessment, planning, action and review when other agencies are involved.”
“Where lead professionals are working with children or young people with additional support needs then, in addition to the points set out below, they also have a responsibility to be familiar with the Act and, in particular, to ensure that parents and young people themselves are aware of their rights when they have concerns or disagreements about the provisions being made under the Act.”
“Where a range of individual assessments is required, the education authority should, in line with Getting it right for every child practice, seek to bring these within one assessment process to avoid duplication and placing the child or young person, and his/her family, under stress. This will involve ensuring that there is a lead professional co-ordinating the process when the assessments involve multi-professional staff. The ultimate aim will be to bring the assessments and their conclusions together into a single plan of action.”
“In all circumstances, planning should aim to ensure the effective co-ordination of support, including parents and the child or young person, so that it is clear what the intended learning outcomes are and what additional support is required to achieve these. Every opportunity should be taken to ensure that there is an integrated plan of action for a child or young person where more than one agency or service is involved and the aim should be to have one plan in line with the principles of Getting it right for every child.”