Choosing to home school

What drives the decision to home school for families with children with learning difficulties?


Salvesen Mindroom Centre is dedicated to supporting, informing and empowering all those living with learning difficulties. When we began our charitable work in 2000, we identified that there are at least five children with some form of learning difficulty in every school class in Scotland.

Salvesen Mindroom Centre has many years of experience supporting the parents and carers of children with learning difficulties. More recently, we have also been working directly with children and young people themselves. From that extensive experience we can identify lots of challenges for families living with learning difficulties. Something that we have noticed occurring more and more often is families opting for homeschooling as an alternative to an unsatisfactory provision in the formal Scottish school system.

The law does allow for education at home – education ‘by other means’ according to the legislation – and some families make a positive choice to home educate their children. The Scottish Government acknowledges that we don’t have the statistics to know how many children are being educated at home (1), far less the reasons behind the decision. A survey undertaken by a private Facebook Forum in 2018 received 329 responses, finding that positive choice was an important factor but that ‘disability, chronic illness, unmet support needs- especially severe school anxiety and ASD’ were ‘key drivers’(2)

In our experience, unmet support needs are indeed a frequent catalyst for families removing their child from school. We have observed this in situations where, for example:

  • There are frequent suspensions or exclusions – linked to regular calls to parents throughout the school day regarding “challenging behaviour”.
  • There’s a lack of understanding and/or implementation of strategies to support a pupil – this may be due to lack of staffing or resources within the individual school.
  • Reasonable adjustments not being consistently implemented.
  • Bullying has not been effectively addressed.
  • Parents feel the school is not challenging their child enough academically or academic progress is too slow.

We would usually hope that children who come out of school education for negative rather than positive reasons can return in due course, but the lack of data means that we cannot be sure of the outcomes. It is also a massive commitment for a family to home educate, impacting on jobs, siblings and the whole of family life. When taken for the best of reasons, this can be a great decision for families, but when taken in desperation it risks benefitting no-one and reflects really badly on our education system.

  1. https://www.parliament.scot/S5_Education/Inquiries/20190515In_ltr_froim_DFM_re_asn.pdf (Accessed 10/01/20). There is a petition currently in the Scottish Parliament seeking regulation of home education – http://bit.ly/35KjnCV (Accessed on 10/01/20).
  2. http://bit.ly/2TaxcrV (Accessed on 10/01/20).

Dr Dinah Aitken: Deputy Head of Direct Help & Support
Sarah McClarey: Family Outreach Specialist More about Salvesen Mindroom Centre http://www.mindroom.org/


Twitter: @MindroomInform, @SMRCResearch

Education is relational in nature; it is a caring profession

Barnardo’s Scotland Policy Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Nicki Lawrence, and Assistant Director for Attainment Maureen McAteer, set out why the use of Professional Supervision in Education is an important component of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Education staff.

As schools start to wind up for the Christmas holidays, Barnardo’s Scotland Policy Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Nicki Lawrence, and Assistant Director for Attainment Maureen McAteer, set out why the use of Professional Supervision in Education is an important component of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Education staff.


Education is relational in nature; it is a caring profession and all professionals who work in schools want to do what’s best for pupils.

The idea that all behaviour is communication has permeated widely across the Education profession in Scotland and this is something to be welcomed. An increased understanding of the impact of childhood adversity and the need for a trauma-informed and responsive workforce are all welcome developments. Education staff are now more aware than ever of the crucial importance of relationships in helping children learn and thrive in school.

However, here at Barnardo’s Scotland we know from our work with children, young people and families that investing fully in children’s lives can be emotionally and psychologically draining, as well as uplifting and fulfilling when things are going well. Working in a relational way has a significant impact on staff.

We are currently working in partnership with over 400 schools in Scotland, across 13 Local Authority areas, and where we have Family Support Workers attached to schools they are noticing that Education staff are lacking in the kind of structured supports available to our workers. Reflective or Professional Supervision is a requirement in other health and social care settings and we believe teachers should have access to this too.

However, Supervision is not currently a requirement in Education and many staff will not receive any form of structured support for their own health and wellbeing to enable them to continue to support their pupils, “to fill up their own cup”. That’s why we want to see Supervision in Education considered seriously in Scotland. We recently ran a survey which received over 400 responses from those working in Education – overwhelmingly respondents supported the principle of Supervision in Education as a way to support their own mental health and wellbeing, and to reflect on the impact the work has on them.

We were also delighted to co-host a roundtable on this issue in November with our colleagues at Place2Be and other key stakeholders which was chaired by Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney MSP. We are very hopeful that progress can be made in ensuring that Education staff are getting the appropriate support for their own mental health and wellbeing – and we believe Supervision is an essential part of this.


You can read Barnardo’s Scotland’s discussion paper on the use of Supervision in Education here: barnardos.org.uk/supporting-mental-health-wellbeing-education-staff-through-professional-supervision-structures

When Nikki and Maureen joined in the discussions at our recent PINS: Health and Wellbeing at the heart of the educational experience event in November, a sketch artist captured their input. You can download their images by clicking on the below:


Twitter: @BarnardosScot

Back to school: ‘There are lots of feelings in your tummy’

As the school gates re-open, Children’s Parliament Co-director, Cathy McCulloch OBE, offers five questions to help with reflective practice and reminds us of the importance of staff-learner relationships.


For many children, the summer holidays are something to look forward to, a time filled with family and friends and lots of fun activities and free time. For other children, however, the summer holidays can be stressful; from a lack of structure, time spent with adults who have difficulties or anxieties of their own to not having enough to eat. Anxiety can also build at the prospect of the new school term; thinking about a new class, a new teacher or a move to another school, especially secondary school. Most children benefit from the better attention we give to transitions nowadays, but back at school, on day one, there will be children that need every staff member to be attentive and open to the behaviours that tell us, ‘I’m just not coping‘.  

Across Children’s Parliaments’ programmes, we acknowledge that some children struggle with school. One of our responsibilities is to capture and share their insight with educators. Some of the most powerful work children have produced is about going back to school and moving to secondary school.

There are those first day feelings: “I felt scared, shivery, worried”.  These feelings can change quite quickly: “By the end of the first day I felt more confident about myself”.  There are worries about coping with new systems and ways of doing things: “Getting to classes is really hard”; “I take too long to get ready after PE so I get into trouble”“It’s hard to fit in and be the same as everyone”. For some children, peer relationships in the new bigger secondary school environment are shaped by the fear and experience of violence: “There are so many fights”; “They are not quick enough at stopping fights. There needs to be more staff in the corridors”. 

There seems to be a growing awareness of the centrality of health and wellbeing to learning. At Children’s Parliament, we would wrap this in a view of childhood and education that is rooted in children’s human rights and the core ideas of human dignity, empathy, kindness, trust, and love. If there was ever a time when the mantra it’s all about relationships rings true it is in those first few days back at school: “It can be fun, but it depends on the teacher”. 

There is no denying that back to school might have some feeling of anxiety or dread for the educator too. High demands, feelings of stress, a real need to build personal and professional supports to sustain energy across the year. But as you learn to look after yourself, if you can, take some time to think about these questions.  Make it personal, and even better, do this with your colleagues.  

  • How do I pay attention to what might not be going well for a child? 
  • Do I know what is going well for each child, so that we can build on interests and achievements? 
  • What kind of adult do I need to be, so that a child can come to me with a question or a worry? 
  • Do I recognise and address the emotions or worries that change may bring about for the child? 
  • How is my professional practice informed by non-punitive, positive and restorative approaches? 

All the best to every educator out there. What you do every day matters.  


For more information about children’s views of life at school, Children’s Parliament has many helpful resources online that collate children’s voices from across Scotland, here are links to just a few:

Life at school (Blog post)

What kind of Scotland? Children influencing Scotland’s future (Publication)

Children’s Parliament Investigates Learning (Project)


Twitter: @Creative_Voices

Dyslexia Scotland’s Education Conference

We have come a long way in how we understand the needs and rights of dyslexic young people. However, there are still many myths about dyslexia.

Helen Fleming is Volunteers Manager (and Education Conference Co-ordinator) at Dyslexia Scotland


We have come a long way in how we understand the needs and rights of dyslexic young people, such as the importance of early identification to help young people to begin to put useful strategies in place to assist their learning.  However, there are still many myths about dyslexia and a large part of our work is to raise awareness, so our annual education conference is the place to keep up to date and help change things for our children and young people.

Dyslexia Scotland’s annual conference for teachers takes place on Saturday 26 October in Glasgow and once again we expect over 200 primary and secondary teachers and other practitioners from across Scotland to attend. Our theme this year is ‘Building independence in children with dyslexia’.

We have three brilliant keynote speakers, including Dr Rob Savage from University College London Institute of Education, who will speak about preventive early interventions and effective later interventions, and one of Dyslexia Scotland’s Young Ambassadors, Hamish Holmes, who will talk about his experience of using assistive technology to support his schoolwork and other aspects of his life.  Finishing off the day will be dyslexic former Young Woman Engineer of the Year, Mamta Singhal.

Delegates will also have the opportunity to attend two interactive workshops on the day. CALL Scotland will run an interactive and informative workshop on assistive technology in the classroom, something that was requested by many of last year’s delegates who visited CALL Scotland’s information stand. There will be a chance to discover more about Outdoor Learning for primary pupils, with games to develop movement skills and physical literacy.

A ‘Playing Card Games’ workshop will look at fun ways to develop numeracy in learners with dyslexia and dyscalculia while another workshop looks at building resilience, easing stress and building success for pupils in the classroom.

The workshop on early identification and support for pupils with dyslexia is proving popular, as well as an update on the outcomes of the ‘Making Sense’ Dyslexia project, and GTCS Professional Recognition in Dyslexia and Inclusive Practice pilot.

Last year delegates said:

‘Excellent conference – well worth a Saturday!’
‘This was my first conference and I found it very helpful and informative – I definitely feel better equipped to help meet the needs of the dyslexic pupils in my caseload.’


To find out more and book a place visit:

www.dyslexiascotland.org.uk/education-conference


Dyslexia resources:

Dyslexia Scotland Helpline – www.dyslexiascotland.org.uk/helpline

Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit – www.addressingdyslexia.org

Resources for educators – Top 10 resources for teachers


Twitter: @DyslexiaScotlan

Kindness: simplicity and complexity

Whether it is in our personal or professional lives, we all know the fundamental importance of relationships – but how do we encourage and enable kindness?

Ben Thurman is Policy and Development Office Carnegie UK Trust


We recently asked a group of young people what kindness means to them. In the discussion that followed, Laura* reflecting on multiple interactions with public services asked, ‘Wouldn’t it be better if people started by telling you their name?’

It is a question that at once highlights both the importance of trust and relationships in young people’s interactions with public services and the sheer simplicity of kindness. And that, despite the significant efforts of campaigns like #hellomynameis, too often public services don’t provide the space for people to authentically connect.

We all want to be kind, and no-one would seriously disagree with the Scottish Government’s ambition for a society that treats everyone with kindness, dignity and compassion.

But our work has found that there are very real and very important barriers that inhibit professionals’ ability to act in kindness. Over the past 30 years, attitudes towards risk and regulation and the drive for efficiency, combined with the more recent impact of reductions in public expenditure, have minimised the opportunities for relationships and human connections in our public services.

For very good reasons, we have created systems with clear rules and boundaries; and our focus on performance management has enabled us to radically improve our public (and commercial) services. But in minimising risk and maximising efficiency, we have crowded out the flexibility that enables people to respond to human needs. And, at times, this can lead to some increasingly transactional and impersonal experiences for people like Laura.

Our work has led us to the conclusion that we need to do more to encourage and enable kindness; and that, crucially, we need to place greater trust in our teachers, nurses and social workers to be instinctive and responsive to human needs. But it is here that kindness becomes far more complex than it first appears. How do we do this in a way that delivers equality and accountability; that offers value for money and doesn’t depend on already-stretched staff ‘going the extra mile’?

Responding to this challenge is of critical importance for all of us – but particularly for those, like Laura, who have multiple interactions with a range of services.

These debates also map onto other important discussions about children growing up in care. The Carnegie UK Trust is privileged to be part of the Independent Care Review’s Journey group on Love. Like kindness, everyone understands the simple yet fundamental importance of love. We can all recognise that every child – including those who grow up in care – needs to feel safe and that they belong, that they are cared for and listened to.

And yet, embedding love in ‘the care system’ appears to stand in opposition to important frameworks that ensure safety and fairness for some of Scotland’s most vulnerable children and young people. How does love fit alongside professional codes that are designed to minimise risk by maintaining appropriate boundaries and distance? How can we ensure that every child has someone who loves them? Just like kindness, conversations about love show it to be far from simple. But if we are to create a Scotland where every young person knows what it means to love and be loved – and a Scotland that recognises the importance of relationships in public services – we need to embrace that complexity.


* Laura’s name has been changed to protect their anonymity

Twitter: @CarnegieUKTrust /@Ben_CarnegieUK  

Young Carers’ Rights

The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016, which came into force in April 2018, has the potential to change young carers lives, making it easier to identify them and allowing them to have a childhood similar to their non-carer peers.

Educational disadvantage can deprive a young carer from attaining their true potential. Education staff have a powerful role in addressing this and in advancing children’s human rights.

Máire McCormack is Head of Strategy, Office of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland.


The recent Young Carers Awareness Day gives us a useful opportunity to discuss the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 and the key role that people working in educational settings can play in supporting young carers.

Our office’s statutory duty is to promote and safeguard the rights of everyone under 18, or to 21 if the young person is in care or care experienced, paying particular attention to groups of children and young people who may find it difficult to make their views known, such as young carers. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is at the heart of our work as is the views and experiences of children and young people.

Numerous CRC rights are relevant to young carers, including article 28 the right to education and article 29 which states that education of the child shall be directed to the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.

At the Young Carers Festival last August, young carers talked about how teaching staff could support them at school. The overall view was they should be more carer aware. Some reported that school provided welcome respite to their caring role, others were less positive, finding school to be stressful and not all teachers sympathetic. Of concern was how few of them were aware of the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 and the new rights contained within it.

The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016, which came into force in April 2018, has the potential to change young carers lives, making it easier to identify them and allowing them to have a childhood similar to their non-carer peers.

There are signs that can indicate that a pupil is a young carer – absences from school, unfinished homework, poor attainment, non-attendance at parents’ nights, limited peer networks at school and anxiety. Young carers support services, however, note some preconceived ideas of what a young carer is and does: some children with additional support needs may have brothers and sisters providing care, some will be caring for a parent with an illness, disability or addiction. Support may be practical and/or emotional.

With more than 44,000 young carers in Scotland, those working with children and young people are uniquely placed to make a major difference to these young peoples’ lives. Training and support will give them the confidence to recognise the signs – especially at an early stage, to avoid crisis intervention later – and ensure the barriers young carers so often face can be removed.

There is much good practice in Scottish schools, often when the young carers service has a staff member to support teachers and schools in their area, helping to increase awareness of the issues affecting young carers. Good practice examples include:

  • A young carers card, removing the need to explain, for example when the young carer is late or has to leave the classroom
  • A drop-in service initially marketed as helping to draft the school’s young carer’s policy, but also providing mutual support
  • A dedicated young carers noticeboard
  • Safe spaces in school.
  • Checking in occasionally with the young person
  • Allowing mobile phones to be on.

Everyone working within education can play an important role in raising awareness of young carers’ rights under this Act and of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In so doing, they will increase their own awareness and understanding of their rights obligations and be able to support young carers better.


Definition of young carer: A young carer is defined as an individual who provides (or intends to provide) care for another person and is under 18, or 18, but still attending school. The focus is now on how the caring role is affecting the young person, rather than the hours spent caring.

The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland is Bruce Adamson. He works with his team to protect the rights of children and young people: https://www.cypcs.org.uk/

Twitter: @cypcs