If a pupil is struggling at school for any reason and wants to understand more about their rights to support for learning, Reach is the website for them. With practical tips on what can help and young people sharing their views and experiences on all sorts of life issues, Reach offers a ‘go-to’ source of advice to help pupils make the most out of their education.
This blog was written by Amy Westendarp, Information and Development Officer for Children and Young People at Enquire.
“Remember you are not alone. There are so many other young people out there in the same situation as you and lots of people around you that can help”.
Hearing advice like this from young people who’ve been through hard times can be a great help to pupils who are struggling at school. Which is why the Reach website – which promotes pupils’ rights to be supported, included and listened to at school – puts a big focus on giving young people with different life experiences the chance to share their views and stories. By championing the voices of diverse young people, Reach is challenging the stigma attached to having additional support needs – our key messages being that you’re not alone whatever you’re going through, and that it’s ok to not be ok. And by helping young people feel able to ask for support and suggesting who they might turn to, Reach is hoping young people will see that if they get the right support this can be the start of things getting better for them.
The great strength of Reach is that it’s been shaped by young people themselves, and we have so far involved over 100 pupils at different schools and support bases around Scotland. Listening to these youth advisors talking about their worries about school helps us to ensure that the advice on the Reach website is what young people actually want and need. Bullying; relationship issues; exam stress; worries about life after school; self harm and depression; anxiety about their appearance; difficulties accessing websites for those with disabilities; not feeling like they have a say in decisions made at school… these are the real life problems that young people are telling us about and which Reach is aiming to give advice on through practical tips, films, our email helpline and by signposting to other support services and web resources. Guided by our youth advisors with dyslexia, visual and hearing impairments and other support needs, we’re also working to make it easy for everyone to access the advice and information on the site.
Talking to our youth advisors, it has been interesting to note that some young people still struggle to understand what is meant by the term ‘rights’. So as well as raising awareness about young people’s rights under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) Act 2004, the Reach website also pulls together existing resources aimed at helping children and young people understand their rights better, such as the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland materials about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
So what’s next for Reach? On 10th January, children aged 12 – 15 who are able to give their views and take part in decisions will share many of the same rights that parents and young people over 16 already have. So now children aged 12–15 will be able to ask their school to find out if they have additional support needs or ask for a co-ordinated support plan if they think they need one. This change offers a great opportunity to raise pupils’ awareness about their education rights and how they are growing. This is all happening through the Education (Scotland) Act 2016 which extends rights included in the Education (Additional Support for Learning) Act 2004 to young people aged 12-15.
We are working with children and young people to understand better what they need to know about how their rights are developing, and what their communication preferences are for finding out more. A new rights section of the Reach website will go live early next year, which will help pupils to understand what their new rights are, the process if they decide to exercise these rights, and where they can get help to do this..
Find out more about the services Reach provides, including advice for children and young people, on their website.