Additional support needs reforms and social justice in Scotland

S. Riddell, J. Stead, E. Weedon, K. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


New additional support-needs legislation in Scotland sought to recognise the way in which poverty, as well as individual impairment, contribute to the creation of children's difficulties in learning. As well as identifying a wider range of needs, the legislation sought to provide parents, irrespective of social background, with more powerful means of challenging local authority decisions on resource allocation, with the aim of delivering a fairer system. This paper uses Scottish Government statistics and family case studies drawn from an ESRC-funded project (RES-062-23-0803) to examine the links between social deprivation, the identification of additional support needs and parents' ability to use the new dispute resolution mechanisms. There is a strong association between the identification of additional support needs and social deprivation and this is particularly marked in relation to non-normative difficulties, such as social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, compared with normative difficulties such as blindness and deafness. Statutory educational plans, which provide greater rights to additional resources and formal dispute resolution mechanisms, are disproportionately distributed to parents in more advantaged neighbourhoods. Parents from middle-class backgrounds appear to be able to use their social and cultural capital more effectively to challenge local authority decisions. The paper concludes that some funding for additional support needs should be allocated on the basis of social deprivation, but there continues to be a need for the assessment and resourcing of individual needs, since poverty has material consequences for individual children, whose difficulties may be overlooked if an entirely systemic approach is adopted. There is a need for greater investment in advocacy service to enable parents from poorer backgrounds to exercise their rights.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-199
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Studies in Sociology of Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


Dive into the research topics of 'Additional support needs reforms and social justice in Scotland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this