School placement: why parents' and children's views must be considered at every stage

Like many other organisations and individuals, Enquire recently provided a response to the Scottish Government’s Consultation on Excellence and Equity for All: Guidance on the Presumption of Mainstreaming.

School placement is a very common topic in calls to the Enquire helpline, making up about a quarter of all our enquiries. There was a lot to say in the response, particularly as it included questions on the vision for inclusive education in Scotland and the key features of inclusion. We welcomed the revised guidance and the opportunity it creates to make changes for the educational experience of children and young people with additional support needs.

Parents report to us that they do not always feel like active partners in school placement decisions and that their child’s views are not actively taken into account. This can lead to a breakdown in communication and create long-term difficulties in the critically important relationships between families and educational professionals. When parents and carers feel like they have been asked and listened to and that the decision about placement has thoroughly considered their child’s views and needs, it contributes to respect and trust between the key people in a child’s life. We feel this must be supported at every level.

We welcomed the explicit point in the draft guidance that children or young people should never be sent home for ‘cooling off’ periods without a formal planning process.

Over the last 12 months Enquire received 279 enquiries (20% of all of our enquiries) about children not in school for a reason other than formal exclusion. Of these, 79 were about a child receiving a part-time education. The remainder were children not in school but who had not been formally excluded, children not in school due to ill health, and children refusing to go to school. A significant number were from parents who stated there had not been a formal planning process to agree this was the most appropriate course of action for the child or young person.

In these situations children are not having their right to an education met and parents are often unable to work. Guidance and support to schools is urgently needed to address this.

The 2017 school statistics show that the exclusion rate for pupils who have an additional support need is more than four times higher than those who have no additional support needs. This is not reducing proportionately with the overall reduction in the number of exclusions in Scotland. We suggested that the guidance sets out more directly the expectation around unlawful and lawful exclusions of children with additional support needs.

  • Enquire provides information and advice about additional support for learning (ASL).
  • The Enquire and Children in Scotland responses can be found here

  • For information on ASL for parents and carers and professionals see

  • For information on ASL for children and young people see, this includes information on the extended rights for children in relation to planning and involvement in their additional support.