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Getting additional support needs right

Understanding student needs is essential to our collective support for ASN students writes Lucia Ramon Mateo.

Students

All learners need help to succeed but some learners need extra help to reach their full potential.

Dedicated provision for those with additional support needs (ASN) is available to further education students in all of Scotland’s colleges. The Scottish Funding Council’s funding of this support is essential in helping ASN learners to overcome the difficulties they encounter in the course of their studies. A feature of the support system in Scotland is that colleges are able to make decisions at an individual level about how best to provide that help.

However, to ensure our funding does what it is meant to do we have to understand the changing needs of students and of the college staff who are closest to them. The Scottish Funding Council therefore undertakes and participates in regular reviews of the whole process around Student Support Funds. In line with this commitment we are currently collecting feedback for the Scottish Government’s Disability Related Student Support Fund Review working alongside the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). This is being done through three surveys; one for HE students, one for FE students and one for college sector staff.

The process for creating these surveys has included input from many stakeholders, including ourselves at the Scottish Funding Council; the Scottish Government; SAAS; universities and colleges and organisations like Lead Scotland and NUS Scotland. The process itself has demonstrated the extent to which those who work in student support strive to provide what is best for their students. We have all worked together to shape these surveys and we are confident that the results will enrich future policies and practices for further education students with additional needs.

I think it’s fair to say that, while we try to support all students fairly and equally, we know that there is still work to be done. By reviewing our processes and collecting feedback from those who have direct experience of how our funding works in colleges we can improve the system and make it better for those who need it. We also want to make sure that students are more aware of the help that is available to them.

The common aim across everything we do in this area is to make sure that ASN students thrive in their education. We need their talents to ensure a brighter and more inclusive future.

Lucia Ramon Mateo, Funding Policy Officer, Scottish Funding Council - 11 Mar 2020