One of the most popular topics Signpost has been asked about is education, and in particular what to do if things go wrong for a child, or parents feel that their child is not progressing or needs more support.

The information on this page will help you to decide what to do if your child is having a difficult time at any stage of their education.

Getting started

If you need help, or to discuss a problem, a good place to start is Enquire, which is a national helpline and website for additional support for learning. It has a collection of helpful factsheets, and the helpline number is 0345 123 2303. Their phone lines are open Mondays 1pm – 4:30pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30pm – 4:30pm, and Fridays 9:30am – 1pm.

On West Lothian Council’s website, the first sentence on the Additional Support for Learning page states: “West Lothian Council will meet the needs of all children and young people”.

As parents, if we have not had a particularly good time at school, we can bring all kinds of difficult feelings to the matter of our child’s education. We may not value what school can give our child, we may feel intimidated by teachers, or we may think the system is too complicated to understand. However, our children depend on us to speak up for them and to focus on ensuring they have the best chance to learn.

Remember, school staff are part of the ‘team around the child’ and that team should include you as an equal partner, since you know your child best. However, to be on the team, you are expected to be calm, polite and decisive at all times – which can be difficult!

Staff may not know very much about your child’s condition, they may not be trained in strategies, but most will still want to try to help your child to have a good experience. If possible, give them the benefit of the doubt even if they upset you, and keep the lines of communication open. Be solution-focused, rather than looking back at past incidents or previous arguments. The Enquire factsheet on avoiding and solving problems may be helpful. There is more about school meetings in the accordion table below.

Areas covered in the accordion table below


      • Additional Support for Learning
      • Advocacy
      • Attendance and Exclusions
      • Bullying
      • Complaints
      • Gender and Identity
      • Health Needs in sSchool
      • Home Education
      • Mediation
      • Meetings and Support for Meetings
      • Parent Forum
      • School Transport
      • Special Needs Schools and Units in Mainstream Schools
      • Transition in Education
      • Wellbeing Support in School
      • Further Resources

Additional Support for Learning

West Lothian Council has a useful web page which includes links to:

Educational Psychology – an educational psychologist can assess your child’s learning needs and suggest strategies to support learning – ask your school for an assessment by the educational psychologist or contact them direct

Inclusion and Wellbeing Service – support for children to help them reach their potential, including the Additional Support needs service page, which has links to key Council documents.


My Rights My Say

My Rights, My Say supports children in Scotland aged 12-15 with additional support needs to exercise their rights to be involved in decisions about their support in school. It’s independent, confidential, easy to use, and supports children to speak up about what they need to learn. They have information on:

Advocacy – advocacy to help children speak up about what’s important to them at school.

Children’s views – independent support to practitioners to gather children’s views.

Useful resources – offers teaching resources and template letters to help children access their rights.


If your child has autism or is neurodivergent, Mindroom may be able to help them express their views about decisions which will be made about them, with 1:1 support.

Attendance and Exclusions

West Lothian Council states:  “Children and young people benefit most from their education when they attend school regularly. Children and young people are expected to follow their School Behaviour Code. In extreme cases, children and young people may be excluded from school”.

Schools should take extra care when deciding whether to exclude a pupil with additional support needs. They should consider whether a pupil’s behaviour is directly linked to their support needs, or whether it’s because the right support is not in place. They should always think about the impact an exclusion will have on a child’s wellbeing and support.

If your child is disabled, the school must make sure that they are not treating them unfairly by excluding them. If the school excludes your child because of behaviour connected to their disability, this may be unlawful discrimination. Enquire has a helpful factsheet on this topic, which offers the following tips:

  1. Ask for a meeting with the school to discuss why your child is being sent home.
  2. Highlight that sending your child home without formally excluding them is against the law.
  3. Identify triggers: Ask the school if there is a pattern of when incidents happen that result in your child being sent home e.g. times of day, activities.
  4. Ask for a review of their support so your child is not sent home again.
  5. If your child continues to be sent home contact your local authority’s Additional Support for Learning Officer (Enquire can help you find the right person to speak to).

Further information on the Council’s policies on attendance and exclusion can be found in the Promoting Positive Relationships policy and the Attendance Policy. For further information on each school’s behaviour code, please contact the individual school or consult the school’s handbook.

Signpost would encourage parents and carers to look at the following sections within the Promoting Positive Relationships policy:

  • 3.3 Part-time timetables
  • 2.3 Children and young people with disabilities
  • 2.8 Multiple exclusions
  • 3 Operational Management Procedures of Exclusion
  • Appendix 3 Use of part-time timetables
  • Appendix 4 Procedures of exclusion

Enquire has links to Scottish Government guidance on attendance and exclusions.


For support with bullying see our Family Wellbeing page. Each school should have a policy which they should be able to show you, and there may be information in the school handbook which you can refer to.

West Lothian Council has a web page about this. Bullying is also mentioned in the Council’s Promoting Positive Relationships document.


If you feel you need to make a complaint about your child’s school or teacher firstly try to solve any disagreements directly. Do this in writing (email is fine) so you can fully explain why you are making a complaint and this will give them the opportunity to respond and hopefully resolve the situation. Write clearly, use bullet points if necessary and say what you hope the result will be of you making the complaint.

If you feel your complaint needs a formal approach you can do this by contacting Educational Customer Services:

Email –

Telephone – 01506 281952

Write – West Lothian Civic Centre, Howden South Road, Livingston, EH54 6FF

When you contact Educational Customer Services the school and teacher you are complaining about will be notified about your complaint.

Cerebra Scotland has created a series of template letters to make it less daunting for you write to your local council or health body if you need to ask for information or make a complaint.

Gender and Identity

2021 Scottish Government guidance for schools about how to respect the rights of transgender pupils is here.

Health Needs in School

Enquire has a helpful factsheet about dealing with your child’s needs in school.

West Lothian Council lays out the responsibilities of school staff and parents in their Procedures for the Management of Pupils with Healthcare Needs although this mainly  deals with medical conditions which need regular medication.

Note that you should not be regularly called into school to deal with administering medication or toileting issues. If this is happening, ask the school for a meeting to discuss how your child’s needs can be managed, and if the school says they have no resources to do this, contact West Lothian Council’s education customer services by email on If someone calls you back, always make a note of the discussion and when/who you had it with, and follow-up with a brief email summarising what was agreed, so that there is a ‘paper trail’. It is easy to forget exactly what was said if there is a lot of conversations about a topic.

If you need to contact the school doctor about your child, call Community Child Health at St John’s Hospital (01506 524403) and they will connect you to the team. Tell them which school your child is at.

Home Education

West Lothian Council has a home education webpage. Enquire has a factsheet explaining the law on home schooling, and a more detailed explanation from the Scottish Government is also available.

Organisations for families:

Home Education Scotland:


Scottish Home Education Forum:


If your relationship with the Council has completely broken down and you need help to find a way forward, contact Mediation Scotland for further advice and mention that your dispute is with West Lothian Council.

Meetings and Support for Meetings

Meetings with your child’s school or nursery are a good opportunity to hear about how your child is doing at school. Attending meetings can be a positive experience, but it can sometimes also be nerve wracking or frustrating.

It’s important to remember that you have the right to be involved in decisions about your child’s learning and support and to share your views.

Quick tips for preparing for school meetings –

  • Ask your young person how they feel about school, is there anything that would help school to be better for them.
  • Write a list of things that you would like to discuss at the meeting, start writing things down from a week before the meeting so you have time to think about it and be prepared.
  • Your young person does not have to attend the meeting, sometimes this can be easier if you need to have difficult conversations about your young person.
  • Ask someone to come along with you, they don’t need to do anything. They are there to give you support, not to join in.
  • At the meeting stay calm, if you find the meeting starting to make you feel frustrated or upset ask for a few minutes break. Look at your notes to refocus.
  • As the meeting progresses take notes and tick off items on your list that you feel have been covered.
  • Organise a date for another meeting in the future if appropriate, so you can discuss progress.
  • Ask for a copy of any notes taken by the school; if the school has not taken notes email the school with any changes or agreements made at the meeting and ask them to reply confirming what has been agreed.

Enquire also has information to help you get the most out of your school meetings, as local authorities have different ways of describing meetings about pupil support. Read our article on being an advocate for your child – Self-Advocacy page – for more about preparing for meetings and feeling confident.

Mindroom also have a helpful booklet with top 10 tips for meetings and another about building relationships with school which includes tips for young people.

If your child needs support to make their views known to school, see ‘Advocacy’ above. Carers of West Lothian can also help by talking with you before and after a school meeting to help you decide what to say, though they can’t come to the actual meeting.

Parent Forum

West Lothian Parent Forum meetings are open to any parent or guardian of a child in education from nursery to secondary school. The Forum works with the Council to improve children’s educational experiences in schools. You can find more information here.

School Transport

Home to school travel arrangements for West Lothian pupils with special educational needs attending special schools and units in main stream schools will be made and paid for by the Public Transport Department.

If your child is in a mainstream school, but not in a unit, you will have to ask the school to complete an Education Placement Group (EPG) application for transport. This will then be reviewed by a medical board to decide whether your child can have supported transport . Get in contact with the school several months before your child is due to start, or move, to ensure this is underway.

Special Needs Schools and Units in Mainstream Schools

Continuum of Support

West Lothian Council’s support for pupils across all its educational establishments follows the continuum of support, which describes a child’s needs in terms of the level of support needed, from level 1-4. Pupils with the highest needs are all at Stage 4 of the continuum.

If you have been advised by professionals or you feel your child/young person would benefit from a more specialised education provision West Lothian has a webpage showing the options.

Before applying to any of these schools you can contact the school and ask for a visit to speak with the school and have a look around, to find out if they will be able to cater to your child’s needs and academic abilities. Also look at more than one school so you can compare. Depending on your child’s needs mainstream school should not always be ruled out as support can be put in place in mainstream settings and this may benefit your child academically to grow.

The website Special Needs Guide has articles about things to consider when choosing a school.

Admission to Specialist Provision

Admission to a specialist provision is only considered if your child’s needs are so high they cannot be met in a main stream school. Education may decide support in a main stream school setting will meet the needs of your child or a specialist unit within a main stream setting is more appropriate.

It is highly unlikely that your child will be placed in a school outside West Lothian unless their needs are judged to be so great they cannot receive an education any other way.
Contact pupil placement to discuss your situation before applying.

Applying to a Specialist Provision

Enquire has a video about understanding school placements and making a placing request

Enquire also has fact sheets on making placement requests


If you receive a letter rejecting your placement request, Let’s Talk ASN provide advocacy support for families with a right of reference to the ASN tribunal for Scotland.

Signpost would recommend this service to any family who decide to appeal the placement decision. Follow the links below for more information:

Placing request appeal toolkit (NB do not try to fill this in by yourself, without first speaking to Let’s Talk ASN’).

Govan Law Centre Education Law Unit provides legal representation in education law cases to parents and/or pupils.

Transition in Education

There are four key transitions which can be difficult for children and their families:

Holiday time to school time – some children find it difficult to have their routine disrupted or to settle back into a routine after a break. Some strategies to help with this are:

Back to school strategies:

  • Speak to the young person to prepare them for school returning
  • How are they feeling about returning to school e.g. happy, excited, relaxed, bored, sad, anxious?
  • Explore with the young person the good things about going back to school e.g. Who are they excited or looking forward to seeing, what are they looking forward to doing?
  • Acknowledge and chat about worries, reassure them it is ok to have worries about going back to school. Explore what their worries are.
  • Support them to sort out big worries and small worries and explore who they feel they can talk to about their worries – an adult they trust such as parent, teacher, other family member?
  • Rehearse getting ready for school, trying on uniform, getting bag ready. If they are travelling a different route this could be practiced or walks near the school could be taken.
  • Create routines, this includes bed time routine and morning routine as these may have changed during the break or holidays. Changes to bed time and getting up are often difficult so giving time a few days before school will help with this.
  • Use Visuals to prepare, this could be a calendar or a visual timetable / planner to count down the days before school returns.
  • Support them to prepare what to do if they are feeling anxious – what strategies can they use? You will find some strategies to help with feeling anxious. Here
  • Communication Friendly Environments have an extensive range of visual resources to support young people to communicate, understand and process information, Here is a useful guide to support returning to school. Another useful visual is explaining anxiety.

Moving into nursery – usually a child would move into the nursery attached to the local primary, so you should always discuss this first. However, if you feel that the nursery can’t meet your child’s needs, perhaps because it is too big, noisy or busy, you can choose another. However, your child may not automatically get a place at your chosen primary if they are not within the catchment area for it. Consider also what time would suit your child’s needs.

Read more about applying here.

Moving from primary to secondary school – if your child has support needs, under the law, local authorities must:

  • gather information and advice about your child’s needs from you and the professionals that work with them no later than 12 months before your child is due to start high school
  • provide information about your child’s needs (with your consent) to the people who will be supporting your child at high school no later than six months before they are due to start high school
  • send a copy of this information to you

Your child may benefit from an enhanced transition. This means they may have extra visits to the high school to familiarise themselves with the layout or the staff, and there may be extra meetings to discuss their needs. This factsheet from Enquire has more details.

This downloadable communication sheet shows the most common questions that children ask about high school before they go.

Moving on from school to adulthood – there are many factors to consider when your child is ready to move on from school to adult life. See our separate page on this topic – Transitions

Wellbeing Support in School

If your child needs some extra support, most schools now have a place where children can take a break from normal classes – these might be described as a ‘hub’, ‘support base’ or ‘unit’. Ask your school to tell you more, as each one operates slightly differently.

There are many different people who might help to support your child’s wellbeing in school, though this varies from school to school. Most secondary schools, and some primaries, have school counsellors who can talk to your child about any worries or concerns they might have. There are also pupil support staff, support for learning staff, family link workers, and often a duty police officer.

The Let’s Introduce Anxiety Management (LIAM) programme is often used in West Lothian schools for children who have anxiety, and many primary schools have nurture groups to help children with emotional problems.

If you have concerns about your child’s wellbeing, discuss these with the school and ask if there is any support available. Keep the school informed if there are any other events in your child’s life, such as a bereavement, which may be adding to their stress levels.

For more information about wellbeing see our Wellbeing page

Further Resources

Mindroom has a directory of organisations who can help with specific information about neurodiversity.

Signpost closed on 31st March 2023, and we are no longer able to offer you personal support.

However, this website will remain online and is full of resources, links and support information for you to use and download. Remember to bookmark this site and pop back whenever you need assistance.

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Website last revised 31 March 2023
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